Are You Contagious? You bet you are!

Leaders…Your mood affects others.

Self-aware leaders practice noticing themselves and the impact they are having on others. It’s part of being emotionally intelligent.

Self-aware leaders recognize that their mood is a critical factor in the ‘field’ they create around them. What ‘field’ are you creating?

We all possess “mirror neurons” – which means that when others are around us, they pick up on and imitate what we do, and feel what we feel. And we pick up on their behaviors and emotions. Have you ever noticed that when you are working with others who are positive and happy, you feel better around them? Or, if someone is always irritable or anxious, you may find you are noticing anxiety in yourself when you’ve been with them.

Leaders who are aware of their emotional contagion will pay attention to what they are conveying. If you as a leader notice that your organizational culture is suffering in some way (and there are many ways a culture suffers), notice how YOU are feeling about the culture. Are you worried, on edge, anxious, doubtful, critical, protective? If your answer is yes, look around you – chances are those you influence feel the same way.

When mirror neurons are activated between people, you may find that others are behaving the same way that you behave. People who are aware of this fairly newly-discovered phenomenon may be able to ‘hold their own’ around others who are anxious or negatively contagious. In other words, people who are conscious may notice the prevailing negativity but resolve not to be affected by it.

Over and over in my coaching practice, I hear stories about leader contagion. No doubt a leader creating a negative field risks contagion and its multiple effects, such as direct reports and colleagues keeping the truth from a leader, doing work-arounds so as not to have to deal with the leader, hiding upsetting information, and creating team dynamics that are dishonest and backstabbing, resulting in eroding trust. And the positive contagion, when a leader creates a positive field, has wonderfully good consequences: well-being, caring, truth-telling, and problem-solving, results of greater trust.

Find a way to be the leader you wish to be. Live into a leadership stance that is inviting and enlivening – make that your contagion.


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