An Emotional President — Sign of Weakness or Sensitivity?

Last week I wrote about the double standard of gender in this election. Another (somewhat) related topic is showing emotion — and the dilemma of revealing too much. Showing emotion has been viewed as a weakness — in male and especially female leaders. It is a double-edged sword for women — if they don't show emotion, they are deemed “cold”; show too much, and one is viewed as too fragile.

The current president has illustrated that showing emotion may raise controversy, but it has also raised acceptance. The president has shed tears, hugged and even kissed members of his administration! Showing affection is part of relationships — and I think it humanizes our leaders.

There have been numerous debates of interactions:

Barack and Michelle Obama — fist-bump

Obama and Biden — casual hug

McCain and Palin — hugs vs. handshakes

(John and Cindy McCain — not enough?)

Sports fans, when you are done with a tennis match, it is customary to shake hands — and maybe share a congratulatory hug. In the Olympics last month, we saw competitors hug their opponent to say "Congratulations, you did well."

I am not condoning that everyone can cry, hug and laugh in office, but showing emotions is perfectly acceptable in today's society — and those expression of relationships should be embraced. Whether it is a teammate, running mate or colleague.

Perhaps this has been a backlash from harassment suits, but as a Supreme Court justice said, "If it is inappropriate, I will know it when I see it."

Feel free to hug, fist-bump or shake hands with your neighbor.


Kathy Kemper is founder and CEO of the Institute for Education, a nonprofit foundation that recognizes and promotes leadership and civility locally, nationally and in the world community.