The Mood of a Leader is Infectious

Every Tuesday and Thursday mornings, if I am home in Vancouver, I walk to my neighbourhood gym for a workout. I am an early riser, so this walk typically takes place around 6:00 AM, sometimes in the pouring rain, sometimes under blue and brightening skies. On my way to the gym, I always stop at the same Starbucks for my first injection of caffeine via a Grande dark roast coffee that I carry on with me.

Ever since I have been stopping at that Starbucks, the same man and same woman have been serving me. The friendliness of this duo is simply astounding, and they regularly greet me with a perkiness that would make Donny and Marie look like George and Martha from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”

Now even though I rise relatively early in the morning, I am never happy about it. As a result, I am somewhat sullen while I slowly come to grips with the fact that I am no longer in bed. So the first 25 to 30 times this über-friendly duo served me, it took everything in me not to reach across the counter and slap them. But their chipperness never wavered, and I soon came to realize that my grumpiness was no match for it. I now greet their smiles, banter, and laughter with a smile and banter of my own (I’m working up to laughter), and I always walk out of that Starbucks feeling better than when I walked into it.

The simple truth is moods are infectious.

This is something I always discuss with executives and managers during our Leadership Through Storytelling workshops. More specifically, we talk about the fact that the mood they carry into the office has a way of positively or negatively influencing the moods of others. Good leaders are both aware of this fact and hold themselves accountable to it.

We have all heard the adage “It’s lonely at the top.” One reason it’s lonely is that good leaders don’t get to have as many bad days as everyone else. They understand and respect that their bad day—and the bad mood that accompanies it—not only communicates but also contaminates, with the power to spread virally and knock an entire team off kilter. Conversely, when a leader walks into the office conveying a sense of focus, determination, promise, and possibility, that positivity also spreads and, as it does, helps inoculate a team from the pressures, doubts and anxieties that might otherwise weigh it down.

We can’t always control whether we are in a bad mood or not. But we can control how we present ourselves to our teams and whether or not we’re going to let our bad mood corrupt their own. In other words, we can choose to appear in a good mood, even if we’re not. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but it is doable, and good leaders know that. And strangely, as we try to convince others that we’re in a good mood, we can eventually convince ourselves of the same: a transition that is often helped by the good mood coming back at us from our team.

We all have the power to do this on our own. But if you ever need a good mood shot in the arm, I know a great Starbucks you can visit to get it.

TagsBuilding MoraleCorporate cultureExecutive StorytellingLeadershipLeadership SkillsLeadership Through Storytelling

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