But Mommy, the CEO Does That Too! : Three Keys of Emotional Control

I love it when leaders justify their bad behaviors because "the CEO does it too." His/her title is CEO. They've made it. They can do whatever they want, right or wrong. The reality is that you can't fully be your authentic self until you become CEO, though the percentage of "you" that you can show increases as you climb the ranks. It's just the reality of it so there's no point in arguing there.

Now, this doesn't mean I'm a proponent of emotionally out-of-control CEOs -- though I've worked with my share of them. The problem is that when you're the CEO, you are always under the microscope. Everyone is watching your mood every day you come into the office -- and those moods are magnified 10x. This is normal because of the level of visibility. So, even if you are a pretty even-keeled CEO overall, both your good and your bad days are magnified. It's just the way it is.

So what does all this mean if you are a director, VP, SVP or EVP? As high up as you are, you don't have the same luxury afforded to CEOs. You are still on your way up the corporate ladder. You still have a boss who controls your performance reviews, bonuses and promotions. Your attitude and, perhaps, lack of emotional control will prevent you from getting farther. People will refuse to report to you because you are a "screamer" or bi-polar with your weekly ups and downs. They won't tell you any of this to your face nor will they disclose it in an exit interview so as not to burn bridges -- trust me, I've had plenty of conversations with leaders about this and most refuse to say anything when leaving a company. No one wants to burn bridges. Instead, people will leave and before long there will be no one left to follow you. Do something about it before it's too late.

There is also the flip side of too much emotional control, which turns you into a "robot" with no charisma. A healthy balance of emotional control means you have measured reactions to most things, and every now and then you may decide to amplify your reaction for effect and to make a point.

So what can you do to get control of your emotions?

1. Take care of yourself. We all know that when we don't get enough sleep we are moody and reactive. We see this clearly in children, but for some reason we don't think it applies to us as adults. Airlines tell you to take care of yourself before you try to take care of others -- and with good reason! But unlike in-flight emergencies, you don't need a life or death situation to put this into practice. What "taking care of yourself" means varies for everyone, but the basics usually include sleep, exercise and nutrition.

2. Get it out somewhere. I'm not going to tell you not to have emotions at all. You are entitled to feel the way you do, but you don't need to let the whole world know your inner monologue. Find an outlet to release your emotions in private. Some leaders love to take note pads with them to meetings. Write down your feelings to get it out of your system. At a later time, hit the punching bag in your office or go for a workout. Vent to a trusted colleague if need be.

3. State your emotions. Whether or not you jot down your emotions in your note pad, it's important to state your emotions rather than acting them out. Say, "I'm really frustrated by the conversation because this is the fourth time we are having it. Why do we keep revisiting this?" or, "I'm so annoyed that I'm not getting through to you." When you are even-keeled for the most part, and you use stronger language -- instead of acting-out the emotion and showing your frustration or annoyance -- people hear you.

The bottom line -- don't lead with your emotions. If you do, your message will get jumbled and the only impression you'll leave is that you're out of control. Lead with your position and ideas instead and you'll shine as a leader.