You bet it does. During this time of the year, we focus on love and the wonderful elation that comes with finding that special someone. Love is just one of the more powerful emotions that we feel. According to Aaron Sloman, who wrote Motives, Mechanisms and Emotions, “Emotions are analyzed as states in which powerful motives respond to relevant beliefs by triggering mechanisms required by resource-limited intelligent systems.” Wow. That is an incredibly complex statement, but it does apply to my point. Let’s go through this one piece at a time.
“Powerful motives respond to relevant beliefs.” Our motivations are a major driving force to our actions. The statement is clear that our motivations are reflections of our relevant beliefs. I agree with this definition when I think about who and what I fight for the hardest – those things or people that I believe in the strongest. Beliefs are shaped by our experiences, our education and, in some ways, our personalities. When we think about a belief system or structure, the basic ideology of that system or structure defines what is right and what is wrong. Therefore, we believe and understand what is right and what is wrong. The conundrum is that not every structure of right and wrong is the same; the variety of religions proves that point. Putting all of this together, it makes sense that our relevant beliefs form the basis of our motives–sometimes powerful motives.
“Triggering mechanisms required by resource-limited intelligent systems.” This part is more of a tongue twister but is applicable to the point. Sloman goes further to help define what this section means by writing, “The effects may interfere with or modify the operation of other mental and physical processes.” Simply put, while we are focusing on responding to the stimulus, we are taking away some of our abilities in other areas. We (as humans) are “intelligent systems”, but we only have so much attention span and understanding to work with. When our “powerful motives” are stimulated, we respond with the section of the brain called the amygdala (See my blog When Our Brains Work Against Us). This makes more sense when applied to a situation like being around someone we love; we may lose sight of anything and everyone else.
To bring this back to leadership, does emotion affect leadership? Yes! Our leadership styles and abilities are also shaped by our beliefs, which in turn drive our motivations. The hard part is to be aware of this and control it internally. I’ve stated more than once that we, as leaders, are not made of stone. We will experience our own emotions and impulses. The important thing to remember is to be cognizant of the effect of our own emotions or “responses to powerful motivations” and handle it accordingly. We have a finite amount of brain power. Use it wisely.
– Lori Buresh
CEO, The Professional Development Team
A. Sloman, `Motives Mechanisms Emotions’ in Emotion and Cognition 1,3,
pp.217-234 1987, reprinted in M.A. Boden (ed) The Philosophy of Artificial
Intelligence “Oxford Readings in Philosophy” Series Oxford University Press,
pp 231-247 1990.