What Commuting Taught Me About Leadership – Losing Your Cool Can Be Deadly

by | Jul 19, 2022 | Emotions

A couple of years ago I left a job at a great company but with a long daily commute. This is the 6th of a 7-post series on things I learned about leadership on those long and tedious hours on the road.

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The day before my final commute into the office, an unfortunate incident occurred on the Howard Franklin Bridge over Tampa Bay. The drivers of an SUV and a pickup had a disagreement, and the SUV began tailgating the pickup at high speed. The game was now on.

The pickup changed lanes several times with the SUV in close pursuit. The vehicles clipped, causing the SUV to roll several times, hit the concrete barrier and go into the water. Authorities found the driver’s body the next day, a tragic end to an everyday commute that, by all appearances, was caused by one or both drivers losing their temper.

It was a sobering reminder to avoid getting complacent on my final commute.

And Your Point Is…?

Life’s too short to lose your cool.

So What?

It’s normal to experience frustration when things don’t go as expected. Disagreements, differences of opinion and disappointments with other people cannot be avoided.

But losing our cool can be.

As leaders, it’s fine to be passionate about what we do. In fact, I would argue that some level of leadership passion is necessary to influence people to do the right thing and uphold values and priorities.

But we should steer away from operating by emotion and calling it passion. These are two very different things. Emotional leadership is reactionary and situational, and usually indicates a loss of self-control. It makes us unpredictable, and it destroys trust.

Passionate leadership, on the other hand, is values-based and ethos-driven, so it’s usually predictable. It’s a visible cue that we’re advocating for something important.

“…some level of leadership passion is necessary…”

I’m not suggesting that leaders should be uber-stoic and avoid any displays of emotion. After all, we are emotional beings; it’s only natural that we display appropriate levels of emotion (sadness, disappointment, joy, compassion, etc.).

The key is to not let emotions drive our leadership behavior, and instead let leadership drive our emotional behavior.

“Emotional leadership is reactionary and situational, and usually indicates a loss of self-control.”

The Big Picture

Emotional leadership means being driven by emotion. It makes leadership behaviors volatile and situational. Instead of influencing your environment, your environment is influencing you.

Emotion comes out of the blue and is unpredictable. Passion comes from the gut and doesn’t often change.

Your Next Step

Avoiding emotional leadership is self-leadership. We must be able to lead ourselves before we can expect to effectively lead others.

“Passion comes from the gut and doesn’t often change.”


Want more leadership insights?
Check out: 

Taking the Lead - What Riding a Bike Can Teach You About Leadership

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