Nicole Ver Kuilen, a BBA Senior, talks about the ability to harness human emotion and how it is the most important ability a leader can possess.
Some of the most vivid and character defining moments of my life have come through extreme and contradicting emotions. Being diagnosed with cancer: fear yet curiosity. Having my leg amputated: regret yet acceptance. Running my first 10K: inspiration yet opposition. Being accepted into the Ross School of Business: pride yet humility.
When I was in the hospital for chemotherapy treatments, I remember I always had a goal of thanking my nurses no matter how small their service. It gave me comfort and helped someone else smile even when I didn’t feel like smiling myself. What I learned from this experience is that emotion is not just an individual matter. You have the ability to affect how others feel. This is an empowering statement! Think of what good can come of this! You have the power to influence someone’s happiness, to guide someone to feel inspired, to turn frustration into success. Emotion is not just an individual matter.
Recently, I was a site leader of an Alternative Spring Break trip to Elm Mott, Texas to learn about organic farming through World Hunger Relief. I travelled with twelve other exceptional students from the University of Michigan. During this trip, we acted outside our comfort zones by milking goats, scooping poop, and giving up modern shower access. There were a lot of emotions that followed these tasks: disgust, thrill, satisfaction. From this week alone, I learned emotion defines how others view you. This was evident on our final night together when one participant reflected on her view of me as a leader on the trip by quoting “People will rarely remember what you did or said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” In her comment, she stated my positivity and humor throughout the trip fostered an encouraging atmosphere. Because of this, participants felt a sense of trust and openness with me. Emotion defines how others view you.
You have the choice and ability to define how long and what emotion will define your day. Will it be optimism or will it be negativity? As I noted, emotion is not just an individual matter—you have the power to influence someone else’s emotion to lead them to action. Emotion also defines how others view you—you have the power to change your emotions and behaviors at any given time and thus influence the way people view you. With this, emotion is a powerful resource.
Now, what can we learn from this as leaders? What if I replaced emotion with leadership?
Leadership is not just an individual matter.
Leadership defines how others view you.
Leadership is a powerful resource.
As I stated before, I believe the power to harness human emotion is the most important ability a leader can possess. As a leader, you realize you not only influence on an individual basis, but also collectively. You become aware that how you lead defines how others will view you as a leader. You see that your ability as a leader is a powerful resource that leads to action. Emotion provides you the opportunity to connect with others as a leader. If you can harness human emotion and influence it in a positive direction, you can transform challenges. If you can transform challenges, you can empower others.
We have a choice as leaders to manage our own emotions and consequent behaviors so we stand out as positive and influential role-models to others. By doing so, we have the power as leaders to influence other’s emotions and help individuals and the collective to become inspired, motivated, and to work together towards a common goal. With this, I urge you to lead through emotion.
Nicole Ver Kuilen is a BBA junior at the Ross School of Business. She is also pursuing a minor in sustainability through the Program in the Environment in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. At Michigan, Nicole is involved with Circle K, Planet Blue Ambassadors, and the Ginsberg Center's Alternative Spring Break. This summer, Nicole is interning through the Development Summer Internship Program (D-SIP) at the Ross School of Business.