People Skills



A Leader's Mood: The Dimmer Switch of Performance


By: Bruna Martinuzzi

Bruna Martinuzzi is the Founder and  President of Clarion Enterprises Ltd.
Bruna is an expert on leadership, emotional intelligence, Myers-Briggs and presentation skills training. Based in British Columbia, she teaches, consults and coaches and she can be contacted at


In the Harvard Business Review article "Leadership That Gets Results," Daniel Goleman cites research which shows that up to 30% of a company's financial results are determined by the climate of the organization.

And what is the major factor that drives the climate of an organization? It's the leader. In Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, Goleman states that roughly 50-70% of how employees perceive their organization's climate is attributable to the actions and behaviors of their leader.

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A leader creates the environment that determines people's moods at the office and their mood, in turn, affects their productivity and level of engagement.

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When we move the curtain a bit, we can see clearly that a leader's bad mood is a source of infection an emotional contagion that eventually spreads across people to entire units.

We can learn a thing or two from leadership in the military. Imagine the effect on troop morale and energy that an "overwhelmed," "anxious," "worried" or "irate" leader would have. And how about a leader who is plagued by uncertainty? "Indecision," as H.A.Hopf puts it, "is contagious. It transmits itself to others." It can become debilitating and habit-forming in an organization, as people take their cues from the leader's state of mind.

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So how do you work on attaining the consistent, emotionally intelligent leadership behaviors that breed success in yourself and others? Here are a few other suggestions to consider that can improve your and your team's performance:

1. Model Meeting Behavior

Take a hard look at your behavior in meetings, which are often "cauldrons of emotion." Do you model the way by setting a positive tone right from the start? Or do you impose your own "pace" based on how you feel at the moment? Aim for a calm, relaxed mood and a consistent, positive approach.

2. Look For Good In Others

Long before leadership books were in vogue, Andre Malraux, French novelist and statesman, reminded us that one of the central objectives of a leader is to make others aware of the greatness that lies in them. Be known in your organization as someone who is always on the lookout for what is right with people. It engenders good will and is good for business.

3. Read The Climate

Do you have a good reading of the climate of your unit or organization? Can you accurately sense what the emotional atmosphere is? Is it upbeat? Is it energized? Is it down or dejected? Do people seem slightly apprehensive and somewhat cautious in your presence? Can you ask a trusted acolyte if the atmosphere changes when you are away?

4. Be Pleasant and Cooperative

If you are an emergent leader, and working on having a pleasant personality is not a priority for you, consider putting some effort into cultivating this prized quality. It is almost impossible to have executive presence without it. Be cooperative, for example, sharing ideas and shortcuts. This is another example of how mood affects productivity.

5. Manage the Emotions of Change

Be particularly mindful of how you manage emotions if your organization is undergoing change how you handle emotions during these crucial times can help or hinder the change process. It's a known fact that if the resistance to change is emotional, it is the hardest form of resistance to overcome. As the leader handling a change initiative, don't avoid the emotions that accompany the change process. Set the mood and manage the emotions or they will manage you.

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As the leader, you have in your hand the switch that can control the intensity of engagement of the people who do the work in your organization. It's like being a director in a movie: "The first work of the director is to set a mood so that the actor's work can take place" (William Friedkin, American movie and television director/producer.) A leader's upbeat mood metaphorically oxygenates the blood of followers it's a transfusion into the corporate arteries. It may be one of the most potent contributions you can make as a leader.