The Authentic Leader’s Secret Weapon: Emotional Motives

Posted on November 6, 2015 by Nate Regier / 0 comments
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In the last month I’ve taught a graduate course on the psychology of conflict communication at Pepperdine University’s Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution and facilitated an intensive confab with pastors from the Great Plains United Methodist Church on better ways to engage healthy dialogue around thorny issues like homosexuality.

The common theme in both contexts has been the power of emotional motives and the necessity of leaders to master the art of uncovering and dealing with them in a healthy way.

What is Disclosure?

A while back I first considered this concept in a post called “All Problems Are Emotional Problems.” Here’s what we’ve discovered more recently:

Openness is one of the trio of Skills necessary to practice compassionate accountability. Openness has three strategies (Empathy, Validation, and Disclosure). Learn about all three, and download a free chapter from my book. They all have nuance, they all require practice, yet disclosure might be the most tricky of all.

Most people mistake disclosure for sharing information, letting you know what’s on their mind.” In my last post on this topic I suggested that open disclosure is about emotions, not ideas or thoughts or plans, or even goals – these are more akin to resourcefulness.

The Root of Conflict

Taking it one step further, we’ve discovered the the root of most conflict arises from failure to be aware of, and disclose emotional motives. Most, if not all, efforts on which we spend energy are driven by emotional motives.

An emotional motive is a “feeling end-state”, an emotion towards which you are driving. It is often ignited by it’s opposite emotion.

  • Leaders may think they are motivated by clearly defined goals, but beneath the surface, this achievement gains them a feeling of control to avoid the fear of loss.
  • Leaders may tell people their goal in researching every possible scenario is simply to cover their bases, but deep down they are afraid of being surprised or scared by their inability to protect the people for whom they are responsible.
  • Leaders may tell their teams that they just want to “work it out and get along” but inside they are angry because personal boundaries have been crossed.

Emotional Motives & Authenticity

Dr Taibi Kahler, an internationally acclaimed behavioral psychologist, has identified six core emotional drivers which he calls Phase Issues. Different personality types have unique issues that are especially difficult for them to handle well.

Persons who identify, disclose, and experience these emotional motives can engage in healthy problem-solving, transparent relationships, and effective resolution of problems. Leaders who master this art can develop deeper levels of authenticity.

Avoiding or covering up our emotional motives is an invitation into drama. This is why drama-based problem-solving is so draining; because energy is spent on symptom-management instead of the real issue. When the emotional motive is disclosed, it may seem vulnerable, but it also allows your community to be most helpful. It is one of the most powerful leadership behaviors to practice authenticity.

Tune in to my next post to learn about Dr. Kahler’s six phase issues, the six core emotional motives, and how they impact leadership effectiveness.

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