Emotion and Passion in CEO Decision Making

I had a brief, interesting exchange w/ Dave Jilk on the role of emotion and passion in decision making, based on my post on Descartes’ Error.

Most people agree that emotions are integral in decision making, but not always in a positive way.
When I talk about overly passionate or overly emotional decisionmaking negatively impacting the process, I’m thinking:

* I personally really like the guy, but know he’d be a terrible fit for my company. (Allowing the "liking" emotion to enter.)

* I’m really annoyed that his tie isn’t pulled all the way up to his neck, and this annoyance distracts me from the big picture.

* I get really enamored with some detail that someone brings up in the meeting because it sounds sexy and exciting and big. But it’s really not that important.

* I have an opinion because it would reaffirm my own self-worth or in some way make me feel good, even though it’s not the most rational or best opinion.

Clearly some of these indicators, in aggregate, could point to something meaningful. And a gut sense should override everything.

When it comes to passion, I think you must be passionate, but sometimes the best way to express that passion is to look at a decision by repressing derailing emotions.

1 comment on “Emotion and Passion in CEO Decision Making
  • Hey Ben,

    First,kudo’s to you for all you’ve achieved. Yowza! More than a little fire in your cracker, huh? Good to find myself here…

    At the risk of identifying myself as a Trekkie (always a little dangerous), your post immediately brought up the old iconic images of Mr. Spock, the Vulcan master of Logic and Reason, his interplay with passionate and inflamatory Bones MacCoy and the balanced integration of both sides of the equation in commander James T Kirk.

    Which, as a Life Coach, is what I see works best for people: the educated and dynamic balance between emotional intelligence (or gut feelings) and logical reasoning. The informed choice and capacity to focus where and as one feels best.

    Many still assume reason is the highest form of intelligence is to cut ourselves off from a whole lot of natural smarts, and while repression might look like a great ‘management’ practice to some, it’s a long, potholed road that makes the going (long-term) harder rather than easer.

    I work with many who’ve followed reason and logic and find themselves mid-life wondering why they have so much but feel so lousy…

    Emotion is a byproduct of thought. It’s purpose it to inform us of what we’re thinking or sensing so we can choose where to focus and know how to course correct (even if the course correction is a change in our own internal focus from this thought to that).

    For those who want to change what or how they feel, beginning with an review of what they’re thinking is a great place to start.

    That begins a change in relationship to (and use of) emotional ‘E.I’ and the steady stream of input it sends. Valuing both – and a better naviation of both – makes the process of wholistic reasoning happen.

    After all, where would Winston Churchhill have been without his intuition? Would he have been the strategic genius he was – or the rallying champion of his nation his nation needed?

    Would Einstein, who made clear intuition and felt sense of connection between one thought and another, have become who he became if he’d just stuck with reasoned thinking?

    And would Oprah Winfrey have changed the face (and use) of TV – tapping into the pulse of pop culture – just by thinking her way?


    BTW: Dan Pink’s book A Whole New Mind spins this whole topic on its head when it comes to work, economics and competitive advantage. And Dr. Jill Bolte-Tailor’s talk on thinking and the brain at TED.com is wild and wildy informative too interesting…

    Anyway, for what it’s worth…


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