The Myth About Great Leaders

Before I started my own company, I worked in the corporate world and was naïve in my thinking that everyone should be accepted for who they are.  While I enjoyed most of the people I worked with, there would always be one or two people who I didn’t connect with very well. Those people, regardless of where I worked, weren’t comfortable with the fact that I expressed and showed my emotions at work.

Now let me be clear – I wasn’t going around crying or screaming or making a scene. I showed up at my job like I showed up in my life – emotions and all.

I received comments in my annual performance reviews like these:

“You do great work, but you need to rein in your emotions.”

“I appreciate your enthusiasm, but it would be better if you weren’t so emotional.”

At the time, I took it personally, like there was something wrong with me. I’ve always been “emotional” but now there was a negative attached to it.

Here’s what I finally figured out.

It wasn’t my problem.

It was theirs.

I realized that most employees would come to me to discuss issues they were having with a fellow employee or with a project or with a personal problem. They’d also share their accomplishments with me and we’d celebrate together. The fact that I showed my excitement or was touched by an experience of one of my coworkers or was empathic helped create trust and build solid relationships. (It also set the stage for my love of coaching others and showed me I’d be successful).

It’s all about trust. Empathy is one of the surefire ways to start to earn a person’s trust.

Empathy—the ability to recognize and share other people’s feelings—is the most important instrument in a leader’s toolbox. It can be expressed in the simple words, “Is everything OK?”

There’s a myth out in the world of business (yes, it still exists) that says to be a great leader, you can’t show emotions. Men are labeled weak and women are deemed “too emotional”.

The reality is that the greatest leaders show up authentically and show empathy and emotions on a daily basis.

Putting yourself in the shoes of another and looking at a situation through that lens stops the incessant chatter in your own brain and helps deepen your understanding from their perspective.

It also gives you – and your coworker – the opportunity to slow down and really listen.

Studies show that people have a real need for connection in life and in the workplace and most employees want to connect with those they work with. The majority of companies value performance and provide recognition for performance-related activity. The issue is, those kinds of programs don’t support the connection piece that is crucial to a fully-engaged employee.

Try this: Show up at work as the real you. Laugh, feel sad when appropriate, feel your frustrations and use them to channel positive solutions. When you see someone behaving differently than usual, take them aside and check in with them to see if everything is okay. Show your staff some empathy and focus on them more than you focus on the bottom line.

Funny thing about this emotion thing. You may get more invitations to lunch or see a difference in their willingness to step up and help on a project.

People may change their opinion of who they think you are.

You will feel freer to be who you are meant to be.

It’s a guaranteed win for everyone.


We all have moments when we’re unsure of how to react or if we should say what we truly feel in our jobs. What’s important to remember is that everyone else is in the same boat. Looking for help in how to go about doing that? Schedule your 3-Point Mini Leadership Assessment Consultation with me today and let’s create a plan to help you show up as the real you.


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