One Powerful Leadership Trait Nobody Talks About

When things go very wrong…

You’d think by now I would be used to it, but it still blows my mind every time I start working with a client who faces strong hostility on campus, but is actually a high-performer and a good person with the best of intentions.

How can someone who cares so much about their work and about people have enemies? How do things escalate to the point of being asked to resign?

Managers often make faux pas and inadvertently rub people the wrong way, even when they think they are doing everything right. They lack perspective and don’t understand the dynamics at play.  

To increase awareness, I have written about how to build strong relationships on campus, how to foster collaboration by choosing the right words, how to influence with integrity, how to understand people’s needs, and much more.

But there is ONE powerful leadership trait that we forget to talk about. And it’s at the core of all professional relationships and collaboration on campus.

It is the ability to choose one’s emotional state.

Let me explain what I mean by that.

Higher ed. administration can be very stressful and highly political. If a leader gets easily rattled, overwhelmed, or even angry, that person will carry this energy around and pollute every room they enter.

While I never advocate suppressing emotions, I encourage everyone to work on becoming more self-aware and self-empowered.

Anyone can learn to respond intentionally to events rather than react mindlessly.

There is no excuse for a leader to get overwhelmed and take it out on their staff. But it happens every day because they are not aware.

They think outside circumstances cause their emotions. In reality, they create their own emotions based on what interpretation they create in their minds.

True leaders have high emotional intelligence and they know how to handle unwanted events. They know how to be even-tempered and how to choose to be calm and open when they enter a room.

From this point on, every time you go to a meeting, ask yourself what energy you bring with you.

Becoming self-aware

Remember that feelings are contagious. If you walk in a room feeling anxious, people around you will pick up on it and get anxious too. If you are rushed, people will feel rushed. If you are impatient, people will be intimidated and they won’t feel safe speaking.

See what I mean?

If you have bad habits that surface regularly, your staff may start to fear you or not trust that you can support them the way they need you to. And they won’t find the courage to tell you because they will be afraid of repercussions!

You wouldn’t want to walk into a meeting smelling bad, would you? Well, sometimes administrators stink of frustration, anger, pressure, criticism, or plain negativity. They can’t smell it but everyone else can.

Why it’s common

This tends to happen with administrators who are highly dedicated to their work and have high standards. Because they care so much, they can’t tolerate mistakes, delays, or anything else that doesn’t meet their standards. They hate when things don’t go according to their plan.

As a result, they get tense and unintentionally create conflict. With a poor state of mind and negative emotions, they can’t be friendly, listen actively, foster a positive work environment, or make people feel good around them.

All they need is to loosen up a bit, lower their intensity, smile, and bring balance into their life. By learning to calm their nervous system, slow down their hyper active mind, stop being critical, and focus on their own energy, they can transform how they are perceived and completely turn things around.

The problem is that they have no idea. No clue. Zip. Nada.

The old pattern is, when they feel attacked, they get defensive and try even harder to prove they are right. They want others to agree with them and validate them. But by making people wrong, they create more enemies.

They are so unfamiliar with taking a different approach that the only solution they see is to do more of the same. They will work even harder, be even more tense, and go through their days expecting bad things to happen because they lack trust.

OK, I am getting a bit dramatic here. It rarely gets this bad, but I want to show you how things can escalate when someone is not aware of the energy they bring into a room.

What true leaders do

True leaders know that releasing the energy from unpleasant events and getting grounded before talking to people is essential.

They know how to manage their emotions.

They know when it is more important to be kind than to be right.

They know how to be assertive without being intimidating.

They know how to listen and make people feel valued.

They know that a smile can go a long way.

They know how to make people feel at ease.

They know how to see positive aspects in everything.

They know how to trust and empower people.

They have high emotional intelligence.


The good news is this leadership ability isn’t something you have from birth or you don’t have. It is something that you learn with experience and can master if you are truly dedicated to being an inspirational leader.

If you feel that you are not in control of your emotions at work, I urge you to make this your #1 priority. Keep thinking about what energy you bring to every situation and make adjustments. The same applies to your personal life.

You can choose to become more self-empowered and not be at the mercy of external events. It will be a gift not only to the people you supervise but first and foremost to yourself. You will grow professionally, personally, and also spiritually (if you are open to it).

You deserve to be happy and feel valued at work. You can fall in love with your job once you open your mind to trying a different approach.

If this article spoke to you, please click here to schedule a time to speak with me about what you want to transform and how I can help you. Don’t wait until things get out of control. There is no better time to get started than right now.

Together, we will transform the meaning you attach to things, de-activate emotional triggers, expand your perspective on situations, develop your empathy and compassion, lower your stress level, and create self-care habits. We can also improve your professional relationships, leadership skills, and work-style to bring you more fulfillment.

Let’s start now that things aren’t too challenging so that you never have to be the person who faces hostility, or worse, is asked to resign. I look forward to meeting you soon.

About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits.  Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset. For more information and free resources visit