Cognitive Behavioral Leadership (CBL): Create a Checklist for Managing Your FeelingsPosted on October 6, 2019

Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Feelings are so integrated into how leaders perceive themselves that they rarely see the need to manage them. These complacent leaders view their feelings as, “just the way I am.” And because they have achieved a position of leadership, they are even more strongly positioned to view themselves as exceptional already. There is no need to fix what is not broken. Every human brain is a legend in its own mind.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Leaders shoulder two primary responsibilities—to manage feelings and tasks. Obviously, you cannot successfully hold others accountable for completing their tasks unless you complete yours on time. Likewise, it is not possible for you to help others manage their feelings until you have learned to master your own. Managing your feelings is the foundation of emotional intelligence, and is one of the essential skills every successful leader must master.

How can you do it?

  1. Recognize when you are emotionally aroused. Your breathing and heart rate are reliable indicators.
  2. Take your feelings seriously. Your feelings, even when you don’t recognize them, drive most of your leadership behaviors.
  3. Don’t take your feelings too seriously. While powerful and compelling, your feelings will often mislead you.
  4. Identify your feelings. You can’t manage your feelings until you know what they are. And they are usually complicated and mixed.
  5. Remind yourself that your feelings are contagious. The people you lead are looking to you to be the calm one in every emotional storm.
  6. Document your feelings. If you don’t write them down, you will forget them and neglect to manage them.
  7. Accept your feelings. Your feelings are just what they are; face them and manage them first. Understanding and modifying them comes later.
  8. Don’t allow your feelings to call the shots by themselves. The best leaders use both emotion and reason to motivate themselves and others.
  9. Don’t try to change your feelings directly. It just won’t work. Ordinarily, you can only change your feelings by changing the beliefs that triggered them.
  10. Identify the beliefs behind your feelings. This can be a real challenge, but the payoff is worth the effort.
  11. Give your feelings time to change. Arousal-driven impulsivity often gives way to regret after the leader has cooled off.
  12. Ignore some of your feelings. This is essential when something needs to be done, but you don’t feel like doing it.
  13. Minimize disabling feelings by replacing their underlying beliefs. Changing what you believe is required if you intend to permanently change how you feel and behave.
  14. Leverage your feelings to motivate yourself and others. Never let an emotional firestorm go to waste; harness that energy to find a better way and make the change stick.
  15. Consult colleagues with excellent feelings-management skills. Some leaders are just naturally more emotionally intelligent; learn from them.
  16. Learn to predict your feelings. If you predict how you are likely to react, you can manage your reactions more successfully.
  17. Grow a thick emotional skin by embracing emotional detachment. Leadership is a tough business; leader up.
  18. Do not vent your unpleasant feelings. A lot of leaders still believe this helps. It does not. It only makes things worse.
  19. Minimize your rumination about your feelings. If you are wired to ruminate, you probably cannot stop it altogether, but you can definitely decrease the time and energy you invest in this destructive mental activity.
  20. Milk good feelings for all they are worth. And they are worth a lot!
  21. Do what needs to be done despite how you feel. Leadership is about doing things that need to be done even when you don’t feel like doing them—and persuading others to do the same.

How have you used a checklist to manage your feelings successfully?

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