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Emotional Management: A Leadership Lesson from the KC Royals

/ 10.2.14

I’m not a baseball fan. Unless my kids are on the field, I don’t pay much attention to the sport. But last night was different. It started when I peeked at Twitter on my phone. My feed was blowing up with tweets about the Royals vs. A’s game. Kansas City is only a three hour drive from where we live and work, therefore Omaha bleeds for the Royals.

 

Here’s the backdrop. Kansas City is playing Oakland in a single wild card game to stay alive in post season. The Royals haven’t gotten this far in 29 years. The game was tight until the 6th inning when Oakland scored five runs after a controversial pitcher change by the Royals.

 

Athletics Royals Baseball

Thousands of tweets railed KC’s manager for bungling the pitching lineup. That’s what prompted me to turn on the TV. Thousands of fans at the stadium sat awkwardly silent. It was the 7th inning—but the ethos felt dead.

 

In that moment, it became clear to me why good leadership is so uncommon. The vast majority of humans prefer to be spectators. We revel in the decisions of others. And we critique those decisions with eyes firmly fixed in the rear view mirror. Each second that passes spawns new data. And our emotions bounce around like a stock ticker with each new insight or piece of data.

 

Making decisions with limited information is hard. Evaluating decisions with an ever growing set of data is much easier. Yet success or failure is largely determined by how leaders manage emotions after a decision is made. The leader that hangs her head and says “shucks” or “woe is me” isn’t leading. Effective leaders recognize that emotions impact actions and therefore performance. Happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, disgust, and anger are the six universal emotions that leaders have to monitor and manage. And if the leader is responsible for the team’s emotions, he must first demonstrate the emotional stability desired in each of the team members.

 

The difference between leaders and followers is most evident in the source of one’s emotions. Good leaders are masterful at managing their own emotions. blog-2014-10-02-ned-yostAnd they keep teams focused and optimistic even when circumstances are bearing down. Leaders manage emotions. When they fail at that, they lose.

 

Oh, if you hadn’t heard, the Royals rallied in the 8th and 9th innings. They won the game after three stunning extra innings. It was so much fun to watch, I forgot it was baseball. I don’t care what sports analysts are saying today, KC’s Manager, Ned Yost, is the Quantum Workplace Leader of the Week.


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