The positive leadership power of... guilt?


Ah yes I remember those days! No guilt! Largely because you burn all those calories off of course... but as you age... ah well.

It's very trendy at the moment to be talking only about positive emotions in leadership, and while it's certainly true that positive emotions allow you to inspire and to motivate (and are pretty great!), there is also a place for the negative ones.

It's really all about balance.

Recently we've had some fabulous Stanford University researchers looking at the value of guilt in leadership.

Yes I know, it sounds crazy that possibly the most negative emotion you can feel, something that hangs around and beats you up for a while, could possibly be useful in leadership, but there you go!

Schaumberg and Flynn used questionnaires and scenarios to see what happened when guilt was invoked. The result (and many that followed) has indicated that guilt is something that protects the group.

In essence, we need leaders to have an element of 'guilt proneness' so that we can be sure they will be responsible and look after the group.

In light of who is leading the US at the moment, I can't help but think we really need more respect for negative emotion in leadership, and this is a start!

Of course I'm actually positive psychologist and recognise that most people don't need help with negative emotions!

However all I'm saying is there are clear consequences to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Let's have some balance in our leadership thoughts around emotions!


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