Many of us believe that our emotions are a distraction to success in life – and that they upend our ability to make sound decisions. When it comes to leading and managing people, we carry over these same beliefs; we’re convinced making any kind of emotional connection with our employees will only hijack our effectiveness and undermine our team’s performance.

But according to Marc Brackett, founder of Yale University’s Center for Emotional Intelligence, and author of the new book, “Permission To Feel,” this understanding is entirely flawed. Despite what most of us were taught, emotions play an enormous – and positive role – in helping us make important choices, build good relationships & motivate the performance of others.

Up until the 1980’s, most psychologists believed that emotions were only extraneous noise whose static interfered with human effectiveness.  But recent science, including the work Brackett has done himself, proves most human behavior is motivated by feelings and emotions whether we’re aware of it or not. In his words, emotions give people purpose, priority, and focus to our thinking. They tell us what to do with knowledge that our senses deliver. They motivate us to act.”

 Tied to the understanding that feelings and emotions drive human behavior (both ours and of the people we manage), Brackett believes all of us (leaders especially) are wise to become “emotion scientists.” Across over 5,000 US schools so far, for example, he’s taught educators how to recognize their emotions, identify their cause, name them, express them to others – and regulate them. And students at these schools are being taught the exact same skills.

And while Brackett is deeply invested in making today’s children highly emotionally intelligent, he believes every workplace manager would be wise to cultivate the same expertise: the ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, while being able to discern what people around them are feeling as well.

“Do you know the one thing that keeps me up at night,” Brackett asks. “How my employees feel. That should haunt the sleep of every CEO, supervisor, manager and boss in the world. It’s the prime determinant of virtually everything that will happen in an organization.”

This, of course, is not common understanding in business even though it’s a cornerstone idea of the “Lead From The Heart” leadership philosophy.  Marc Brackett joins us for a great reason: his work provides profound confirmation that the heart is more often the driver of employee engagement than the mind.

As of February, 2023, this is the fifth most downloaded episode of the podcast series.

By Mark C. Crowley

Mark C. Crowley is the author of Lead From The Heart: Transformational Leadership For The 21st Century which has been taught in 11 American universities. He is a global speaker, leadership consultant and thought leader on the topics of workplace culture and employee engagement.