Digital Thought

By Janosch Troehler

Why Feelings Are Essential For Leadership



Digital Thought
Last week, I began studying Digital Management at Hyper Island. The first couple of campus days were emotionally challenging, inspiring, and enlightening. Here’s my biggest take-away so far.
My motivation changed quite drastically throughout the months before the course even began. When I applied, I worked as a project manager. So naturally, I hoped to learn more about tools that will help me in that area.
Then, I got the position as the leader of the newly founded community team. I hoped, the master’s degree will provide me with skills and frameworks to lead.
But when I spoke to several Swiss alumni, I realized that it would probably change myself instead of just stitching some knowledge onto me.
And that’s what happened. The so-called Foundation Days at Hyper Island kickstarted something in me, that was sound asleep for a far too long time: an inner dialogue about my feelings and needs.
While reflecting on the experience made in Manchester, I also came to another realization: You can’t form relationships with positions – only people. You may have respect because higher positions have higher authority. But that doesn’t mean you’ll connect on a human level.
In this rapidly changing world of digitalization, we’re facing more and more complex tasks. Effective teamwork is essential. I can recommend the book “Creating effective teams” by Susan A. Wheelan. It’s a great guide to understand how groups have different stages in their lifespan. Here’s an article that may help you either.
Relationships formed between group members as well as the leader are crucial to create a trusting, open, and creative environment that drives innovation.
Leaders have to inspire the change towards a more emotional – in fact, human – culture. That means they have to take the first step into vulnerability as described by Brené Brown.
The power of vulnerability | Brené Brown
The power of vulnerability | Brené Brown
By taking this leap, leaders can build deep, meaningful relationships and help facilitate an atmosphere in their group that encourages people to do the same. 
All this may sound very esoteric, but it works. After I came back to work, I had a meeting with a co-worker. He asked me how I felt. Instead of what most of us do and say, “I’m good,” I tried a different approach. I was honest and revealed that I had a bad experience in my private life and that this might affect me in the coming weeks. Surprisingly, he immediately opened up too and told me that he also had some troubles.
Now, that we know these little pieces of information about each other, we’re able to practice empathy and be more understanding about specific behaviors. I’m curious how this will impact the atmosphere and culture of our team.
What do you think?
Are you convinced of this approach? How is your relationship with your co-workers? I’d like to hear about your experiences. Hit reply and send me your thoughts.
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Janosch Troehler
Janosch Troehler @janoschtroehler

DigitalTought is a more or less regular newsletter about my thoughts on the media business, leadership, and other challenges we face in the digital age.

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