Theresa May — Should leaders expect people to care how they feel?

  1. It’s judgement day — When you show your emotions, expect others to have an emotional reaction too. As in Theresa May’s case, these are not necessarily going to be symathetic emotions. You will spark something, but you won’t always know what it is or how far back the reaction originates from.
  2. Beware making it all about you — Much of the anger we’ve seen towards May’s tears is based on her lack of equivalent public emotion when it came to the plight of others. For instance, she didn’t shed a tear over the Grenfell Tower fire victims. If you’re only publicly angry, upset or hurt when you’re the victim expect us to notice.
  3. We don’t trust it unless it’s consistent with who we think you are — Compare May to Jacinda Ardern. Ardern is regularly seen to express emotion. She’s excited, laughing, sympathetic, grieving. May, on the otherhand, acquired the nickname ‘Maybot’ precisely because she didn’t show emotion in public. If, as a leader, you want people to connect with you and to come with you as you drive change you need to embrace emotion every day, not just save it for the day you lose your job.
  4. People will try to use it against you — We’re still not comfortable as a society with public displays of emotion. Others will try to capitalise on your weakness if they can.
  5. You’ll win some admiration — At the same time, other people will feel connected with you, perhaps for the first time.

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Agent provocateur, CEO, columnist, authority on the future of leadership, keynote speaker, former BBC Today Producer

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Blaire Palmer

Blaire Palmer

Agent provocateur, CEO, columnist, authority on the future of leadership, keynote speaker, former BBC Today Producer