On Emotion

Of all of the reasons postulated for Chicago losing the bid for the 2016 Olympics, one stood out above all the others for me–and, that was that the final pitch in Denmark by the Chicago bid team, with the exception of Mrs. Obama’s presentation, lacked “emotion”, or “passion”, according to various press accounts. (The press related that the First Lady made a very impassioned speech about her home town).

When I read this, I thought to myself, “How typical of Chicago’s business community. No emotion–no passion. We just don’t show that in this town, now do we?”

And, I have often wondered why. Why is it unprofessional to tell someone that you care for them–even love them? Do people think that, if you do this, you lack some sort of “control”? The best leaders that I have ever known have the ability to speak from their heart.

On November 3, 2005, Pat Ryan, the former chairman of AON Insurance in Chicago, and the chairman of Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid team, made some very impassioned remarks at an Economic Club of Chicago forum luncheon on how he felt when AON lost so many members of its staff in the September 11th tragedy in New York. After his presentation, which was very moving and emotional, I went back to my office and wrote him the following email, which I retrieved from my archives:

Dear Pat—

As I mentioned to you briefly at the conclusion of the Economic Club forum luncheon, today, I think that you should write up the remarks that you gave today for publication. We are taught in business not to express any emotion—as if, somehow, to express our feelings is “unprofessional”. I think that is wrong. You were eloquent today, because it was obvious that you spoke from the heart about how you felt about the “9/11 crisis” and your company. You made quite an impact. The room fell absolutely silent, when you spoke.

Someone once told me not to be afraid to speak and write from the heart. It’s o.k. That’s what people really want in a leader, I have found—someone who speaks—and acts– from their heart. I would encourage you to do the same. When you write up the remarks that you gave today for publication, don’t hold back. Write what you feel. It will be terrific, and will be a learning piece for us all for years to come.

Good luck—and, let me know where I can read it, when it is published.

Very truly yours,

Paul A. Dillon

What a shame that he didn’t take my suggestion!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *