The Mood of Leadership

24 Jan 2012 8:55 PM | Kathleen Loehr (Administrator)

Managing my mood is one leadership choice I always have, regardless of the situation. I can bring myself back into my center – my sanctuary – by noticing and shifting my mood, or I can keep myself off center by staying in a mood that does not serve.

I learned this in a very real way a few years ago. I was heading up the fundraising for a large nonprofit which meant my days were filled with endless meetings with donors and board members and staff, as well as working on planning, strategy and budgeting. One Tuesday, I left the building almost in tears. It had been a hard day – almost every meeting had been fraught with issues, personalities and politics. Why, I wondered, am I still in this job?

On a Tuesday four weeks later, I was packing up my briefcase at the end of an exhilarating day. I had laughed a lot with my team, enjoyed the strategy session with the board chair and felt energized by all we had accomplished. As I was filing away that day’s calendar, I noticed that it was an exact replica of the Tuesday calendar from the previous month – same meetings, same people, same agendas.

I realized in that moment that the only difference had been me. I remembered that I had started the first Tuesday in a mood of resignation – “Nothing I am doing is making a difference”. The following month my mood was one of calm anticipation – I was looking forward to seeing what the team and the board chair had to offer. The starkly different results of each “twin” day had been due to entirely different moods.

A mood is not simply our thoughts about a situation; it is a bodily phenomena. When I am anxious, I don’t just think I’m anxious, I am – with shallow breath, tight chest, and shoulders drawn in protectively. And a mood is not fleeting. A thought can come and go, but a mood will stay in our body for a period of time, especially if we remain unaware of it – I’ll keep taking shallow breaths and feeling tight as I go through a day. What we need to understand about a mood is that it determines what we are able to express. For example, it is hard for me to express a strategy calmly when I’m gripped with anxiety. So it would have been unlikely on the first Tuesday for me to lead generative, fun meetings when I was in a mood of resignation.

Choice follows awareness. If I am aware of my mood, it does not have power over me. I can instead choose consciously to stay with a mood or alter it. And from that choice comes action – I sit up, breath deeply and relax my shoulders – moving myself consciously from a mood of stress to one of curiosity, or calm, or any number of alternative moods that will support my objective in the moment.

Consider doing a self-inventory on your moods – get to know them really well!! How do you normally start the day, or a staff meeting, or a conversation in the hall? Name your moods, track the various ones that you observe. Do you have predominant moods? How do they impact you, and others? Add a post to our blog and share what you notice!

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