The damage done by leaders who lead by emotion
Phil Cooke

Phil Cooke

One of my first jobs in a TV studio was pretty much a laboratory of bad leadership. At the time I hated the job, but looking back, it was an incredible learning experience. In fact, the various leaders throughout the organization might as well have been poster children for different examples of leadership failure. One of the most damaging was a leader I reported to who was completely driven by emotion.

We could never tell which personality would actually show up because it all depended on how he felt that day. Grumpy, happy, frustrated, angry, encouraging, obsessive – the list went on and on, and every day would be a new surprise. As a result, we had no standard of what success looked like, no example of how to perform on the job, and no idea what he was looking for on a given day.

Every day was a gamble.

Chances are most of us don’t think of ourselves like this. Sure we have good days and bad days, but we don’t see our leadership style actually driven by our daily emotions.

But chances are, it happens to us more than we think.

When a leader is driven by emotions, his or her team has no idea what is acceptable anymore. Great work might be greeted with a sneer because the leader is angry about something else. Poor work is excused because the leader happens to feel good today. Whatever that leader is experiencing (good or bad) he or she passes it on.

Like the old saying goes, (you know what) rolls downhill.

This week, take a hard look at your emotional level and how it impacts the people around you. Are you controlling your emotions or are they controlling you? We’re all under stress, but a great leader doesn’t pass that stress on to the team. It’s worth noting that many of these leaders aren’t jerks – they’re just people who allow their emotions to control their day. The phrase “the buck stops here” can be applied to emotions as well. Don’t let your team be a victim of your out of control emotional level.

Man up. Woman up. Be the leader you’re capable of being. Emotions happen, but when we allow them to control us, we cease being a leader and simply become a swinging door.


Phil Cooke is a producer and media consultant to churches and ministries across the country. His latest book is “Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media.” Find out more at

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