The Curious Leader
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The Curious Leader

Why Every Business Needs an Emotional Rudder

As the captain of your ship, you must be at the helm. But you can’t simultaneously be at the helm and in the ship’s bowels redirecting the rudder. You can choose your direction but know it’s the ship’s rudder that keeps it on course.

Enron was an oil and gas company claiming to do business with respect, integrity, communication, and excellence. Then scandal struck. Investigations revealed that Enron had been cooking its books for years. Enron thought they were holier than thou and could be their ship’s helm and rudder. Enron’s saga shows that you can’t be accountable on your own. Here is why:

#1 Calm water on the surface is not a sign of what runs below.

Keeping up with our nautical theme, the Bolton Strid is a small mountain brook. Though it looks superficially calm, its undercurrent has claimed many victims. As a result, many view it as a trap that can cause severe loss. Nothing is what it seems.

Zynga was the sweet darling of the tech world. Famous for its online games, the company predicted a 9 cents increase per share when Wall Street expected a 4 cents increase for that quarter. After announcing earnings per share (EPS) of just 1 cent, Zynga’s stock plunged 40% overnight. Calm water on the surface is not a sign of what runs below.

#2 Undercurrents can cause hurricanes.

Undercurrents affect the pressure of the air, its speed, and its direction. They have the power to create hurricanes and wreak havoc.

The concept of Uber was born one winter night as the two founders couldn’t get a cab ride. One said to the other, “What if you could request a ride from your phone?” Uber thus became the world’s fastest-growing ride-sharing company. But it lacked direction. It quickly became a company inundated with claims of gender bias, sexual harassment, and more. Fast growth without accountability can leave a trail of tears and broken homes.

#3 Swimming against an undercurrent is the most common cause of drowning.

Water undercurrents have speed and direction. Their direction may not be where you want to go.

At its peak, Blockbuster had 84,000 employees and 65 million registered customers. A decade later, the company filed for bankruptcy. What happened was Blockbuster kept swimming against the (Netflix) undercurrent that would send DVDs to your home in exchange for a monthly subscription fee. As it kept losing customers to Netflix, Blockbuster sank into debt to the point of no return. Not paying attention to developing trends and asserted patterns can create unnecessary exposure.

#4 Over 90% of the water in the ocean form the undercurrent.

Oceanic studies show that the first 1300 feet (400m) of ocean waters are surface currents. The rest form the undercurrent.

As the captain of your ship, you face many undercurrents, such as customer relationships, manufacturers, employees, etc. These undercurrents speak to your company’s sustainability. If you can’t manufacture your product, people can’t buy it. And if you need a product part that comes from a country with political issues or child slavery, your company’s undercurrent can be tarnished.

In 2001, the World Cocoa Foundation issued a protocol where its members promised to phase out “the worst forms” of child labour. Since then, eight African children have sued Nestle (and other chocolate magnates) for forced labour. Perhaps remember that next time you reach for a chocolate bar. Your emotional undercurrent affects everyone.

#5 Undercurrents cannot redirect on their own.

Undercurrents do what they do until they meet an external force capable of altering their course.

Starbucks was losing money, and they didn’t know what to do to solve that problem. So they started a social media campaign where they asked customers to share what they wanted their Starbucks experience to be. The company listened to the external feedback. They revamped their coffee portfolio and personalized their customer experience. As a result, they became a big hit. They were willing to ask for help. No one can redirect their undercurrent alone.

Who is your emotional rudder?

Throughout this article, we’ve talked about Enron, Zynga, Blockbuster, Nestle, etc. Those companies all had the same problem: they believed they could be the helm and the rudder. Starbucks became a winner because they were willing to ask for help and be redirected where necessary. The company knew it needed an external force to hold them accountable. So, who’s your emotional rudder guiding you and your business through the stormy waters of success?

Anne Beaulieu, inspiring the next generation of emotionally intelligent and strategic women through:

  • Financial Emotional Intelligence
  • Strategic Planning and Implementation
  • Chartered Financial Analysis
  • Finance Economics
  • Forbes and The Curious Leader value contributions



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