Leadership with Empathy and Connection

At times, especially during our Covid work from home/shelter in place, emotions are extremely helpful to us – they provide a way to connect with the environments and people around us. At other times, emotions can prevent us from being influential, rational or even productive, causing us to lose our effectiveness as leaders. One way to better understand these less effective times is through the concept of flooding and hijacking.


Emotionally flooded is the state in which our emotions have taken over and we’ve lost the ability to detach and be rational. All we hear or see is the emotion. When someone else is emotionally flooded, let them express their emotions and really listen to their feelings. Once appropriate, gently encourage them to bring in more rational thoughts. When you are emotionally flooded, take a step back, change your environment and reconvene later. Once away from the situation, let your emotions out – write them down, go on a run, cry Whatever works for you.

Emotionally balanced is the optimum state for problem solving, learning, choice making and holding influential conversations.

Rationally hijacked is the state in which our emotions are pushed aside and we turn to task mode focusing just on getting things done. When someone else is rationally hijacked, help them to access their feelings. When you are rationally hijacked, try to get in tune with the emotions you’re feeling – access your heart over your head and take the time to figure out what is upsetting you.

Trust and Meaningful Connection

As leaders, we know it’s crucial to build trust in order to have meaningful partnerships with others. The Trust Equation is a formula created by Charles Green to help explain the ingredients of trust. The elements of this equation are:


Words – talk a good talk.

“I trust what she says, she is credible on the subject”


Actions – walk the talk.

“If he says he will deliver, I trust him because he is dependable”


Feelings – level of connection, how safe and secure we feel.

“I feel safe enough with her to share my real feelings.”


Motives – gauging whether someone’s focus is on themselves or others (team/organization).

“I think they are too concerned about how they appear or what they want to get out of it.” (Lerner et al, 2015)

Trust Equation

Four Principles of Trustworthy Behavior

To put this equation into action, here are four methods to create behaviors that enhance trust.

  1. A focus on the other person.
  2. A collaborative approach to relationships. A belief that working together will result in a better outcome.
  3. A long-term relationship perspective, not a short-term transactional focus.
  4. A habit of being transparent. Transparency simplifies and strengthens relationships, increases credibility and lowers self-orientation. (Maister, D. H et al, 2000)

As we continue to lead in times of uncertainty and ambiguity, our connections with others have the opportunity to be more transparent and more trusting. Making these trust ‘deposits’ will realize tremendous benefits as we move to our ‘new normal.’


Lerner, J. S., Li, Y., Valdesolo, P., & Kassam, K. S. (2015). Emotion and decision making. Annual Review of Psychology, 66, 799–823. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115043

Maister, D. H., Green, C. H., & Galford, R. M. (2000). The trusted advisor. New York: Free Press.

About Dr. Sheila Boysen

Sheila M. Boysen, Ph.D., PHR, BCC, MCC is Master of Organizational Leadership Program Director and ICF ACTP Director at Lewis University

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