It’s the invisible hand of leadership. When a leader walks into a room, they enter with an aura. They palpably change the atmosphere, sway the mood, and transform the tone. By simply being present, they silently alter the thoughts and behaviors of those they lead.
As a leader, you know that you are always under the microscope. Every precise detail is on display—the way you dress, the way you speak, the way you stand, and the smear of sauce on your shirt from lunch today—all of that is being accounted for, silently. But as obvious as these physical aspects are, the most powerful influence on those you lead is one that no one can see: your mood.
I used to live down the street from the restaurant I managed. My travel time was a two-minute walk—I could almost roll out of bed and into the restaurant. There was very little separation between what little personal life I had and my work life. If I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, there would be no cool-off time, no green room, no transition period between my apartment door and the front door of the restaurant. I quickly realized from day one that I had two choices: either be a full open book and make no effort to filter my emotions, or get good at quickly composing myself on that short walk. I realized that I needed to be cognizant of my invisible hand.
So, on those short walks to work, I decided I needed to figure out a way to grasp control of my emotions. I knew that if I brought whatever I was feeling into work, it would almost have a butterfly effect on the entire restaurant. If I was feeling really good, it might be a signal for my employees to let their guard down, causing them to make more mistakes. If I was feeling particularly negative, it could easily impact my employees’ interactions with each other and with the customers, resulting in bad customer reviews, or tainted relationships within the organization.
The key was to maintain an upbeat, slightly positive mood—a steady incline, with very few drastic fluctuations. I needed to be predictable. I needed my people to know what they were getting each and every day so that it would be one less variable for them to account for in performing their jobs to the best of their abilities. Too much volatility would leave them uncertain about their jobs, about their performance, and about my leadership in general. I needed to maintain a steady invisible hand.
I did this by immediately projecting positivity outward. Greeting each of my employees immediately, asking them how they were doing and how they were feeling, talking about something meaningful to them—deepening that trustful relationship. By focusing outwards, I prevented myself from drowning in my feelings. I was able to prevent whatever emotions I was feeling from spilling out and contaminating the mood of others.
The advantage to my predictability in mood and behavior was that when something was being done wrong or if standards were not being met, the team automatically knew it. If I wasn’t in the usual upbeat, slightly positive mood, something must have been wrong. And when people sensed a drastic shift in my attitude, it would often be a sign that they needed to get back to the basics and correct their performance. It was the silent undercurrent, the retreat of the tide before the big wave hit. It was the invisible hand at work.
It’s not enough to rely on changes in mood alone to keep things running smoothly. You must be clear and direct about what you expect from your team. But the invisible hand is a useful tool to have in your arsenal—if you can wield it correctly.
It may be impossible to always be in a positive mood, but it isn’t impossible to develop a command over it. Understand that even if you may not notice anything different, those around you certainly will. So focus your attention on your people, don’t get caught up in your own feelings. When you walk into the room, remember that you have the power to palpably change the atmosphere, sway the mood, and change the tone. Don’t underestimate the power of the invisible hand.
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