Jan 11, 2021

Does business competitiveness rely on individual’s capability to lead emotions or will AI manage it all?

Leading with emotions has been the it word for some time, but nevertheless, its importance is not going to vanish, even if AI is taking huge leaps in every direction. On the contrary, emotions are directly needed in 2021, when leading has been shifted to virtual channels and face-to-face interaction has been scarce, says Epicenter’s Fireside chat guest, forerunner of emotional leadership, author of five books and the founding partner of Emotion Tracker startup Camilla Tuominen.  

‘’I’m all about moments of truth and how important intangible is. Commercial jingles are easily copied but when something special happens between colleagues and customers that is where the magic happens and leaves a memory mark’’, she describes.

Fact-oriented country needs emotions too

Leading emotions pays a key role in today’s business life. Companies cannot afford to silence their workforce and miss the opportunity of a potential great idea that might brew in somebody’s brain. Tuominen is well aware that Finland is a fact-oriented country were people rationally deliver when asked, but sees huge potential in companies who put effort on managing and recognizing emotions better. 

‘’You don’t have to change anybody, but small gestures can be either discouraging or encouraging. So, try to lead your emotions instead of letting them spread widely around causing all kinds of harm’’, she points out. 

According to Tuominen, a roll of the eyes from a person in a meeting can silence somebody for a long time, suffocating any possibilities for new ideas or positive change. 

Where does AI fit in? 

So how far can we go with AI in leading our businesses and is there a need for humans to bring in the emotions in leadership in future as well? In the past years artificial intelligent has become smarter and smarter. Creator of Tesla, Elon Musk has started to develop Bluetooth- enabled chips to the brain that could be used in repairing brain damage and who knows can make the brain a super computer in future. While psychologist Paul Ekman is well known for his research* on micro gestures in humans and in recent years, technology companies have started using Ekman’s method to train algorithms to detect emotion from facial expressions, it is not flawless. Therefore, the robotics will still for the greater part focus on the linear stuff, using algorithms, while emotional rational thinking is needed by humans in future as well.

This is why companies are still motivated going toward with training and leading emotions as no machine is still capable of reading weak signals and being flawless in detecting feelings from facial expressions. Regardless, Tuominen believes that in future, companies will get huge amount of help from AI, providing all the facts and taking away the daily routine-like work tasks. That is why people will be able to really focus on creativity, encounters and reading the weak signals.

From pink fluffy stuff to company’s super power

Tuominen remembers how back in 2012 emotions were regarded in business life as ‘pink fluffy stuff’ and rationality was the number one driver in making things happen and moving forward as they were clearly measurable. Fortunately, things have moved really fast to the right direction. Emotions are getting out everywhere and getting in control.  They are truly becoming a super power of the companies who have chosen to take leading emotions seriously. Especially during the pandemic where most of the meetings are held virtually, emotions pay a huge role, when staring each other through the screen for hours. 

‘’Many people now realize that 100% rationality in Teams-meeting is a no go. People are beginning to understand, how important it is to bring those emotions to the virtual meetings and realize that there is no off switch with emotions. A simple how are you doing today, is a good start’’, she points out. 

Definition of good balance between emotions and rationality

It is important to be able to use both sides of one’s brain and try to balance emotional and rational thinking. While this is not always an easy task to do, it is definitely a thing one can train and become better at.

‘’You can’t dictate emotions as they are always on and reading information from surroundings. We need both emotional and rational thinking and blocking the other away is not sustainable’’, Tuominen reminds. 

Tuominen explains that if you want to eat better or be in a better shape, you don’t just take a quick diet. You need to be committed and consistent and the hardest part is that you should start with yourself. 

‘’It is a long journey, but the end goal is that you become aware that this emotion is not just a random thing that happens, but it is here to tell something about yourself. Be curious as there are not right or wrong emotions. Once you get interested you get so much more done’’, she concludes. 

Five tips to move forward in your company on emotional leadership:

  1. Don’t just talk to sales and CEO’s. Everybody should be part of the journey in the company. 
  2. Become aware: Once you know how fear works you can be better in charge of your emotions.
  3. Catch your feelings: You can acquire a lot of data from yourself, from your own body and people around you. 
  4. Find you own way and that is the most authentic and best way.
  5. Avoid silence and be bold enough to speak out and let other do the same.

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*Research by Paul Ekman

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