Emotional leadership is commonly valued during transition periods for organizations or in companies struggling with low morale. Transformational and charismatic leaders are often renowned for their ability to "get the troops fired up." However, emotional leadership has some disadvantages relative to a more even-keeled, disciplined approach.


Leaders who operate from an emotional-first perspective tend to make more impulsive decisions. Rather than relying on hard data, facts, logic, reasoning and sound judgment, they commonly make decisions on first impressions or emotions. While impulsive decisions can sometimes work out, employees rely on leaders to set the tone for the company and to make decisions from a well-rounded, analytical point of view.


Effective leaders often have to achieve a higher level of self-control than typical employees. Whereas employees may get by with a feelings-first approach, leaders more often need to do what's right rather than what feels good in a particular situation. An emotional leader can get caught up making decisions based on feelings of revenge, frustration, sadness or over-zealousness. This can lead to unethical decisions at times, because emotional leaders are likely to make decisions that protect themselves and the company, as opposed to decisions that are inherently ethical or right.


Followers of emotional leaders get frustrated and confused by the constant ebb and flow of emotions. Leaders who convey exuberance and happiness one day and are negative and pessimistic the next are hard to follow. Employees find them unapproachable and may find ways to avoid them for fear of catching them on a "bad day." Yelling at employees or crying in front of them on a regular basis contributes to the sense that leaders lack emotional control, making them difficult to follow.

Empathy not Sympathy

One of the qualities admired in leaders is their ability to empathize with others. Employees are often motivated by leaders when they feel the leader genuinely cares about them as people. However, empathy is quite different from sympathy. Leaders who sympathize too much with employees may cause employees to operate more from an emotionally driven foundation as opposed to weighing the pros and cons of competing options. Similarly, overly sympathetic leaders may allow employees to use feelings and problems as excuses to under-perform or to avoid requisite duties, which contributes to a conflicted workplace.