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Shedding Tears At the Movies? Sign of a Potential Leader


Shedding Tears At the Movies? Sign of a Potential Leader


No need to hide your tears at the cinema. And maybe you should even feel proud of those tears. Because crying at the movies shows your humanity, highlights your empathy, and is the sign of someone with a strong EQ - or even someone fit for leadership.



Shedding Tears At the Movies? Sign of a Potential Leader

By Hueiru Huang
web only

Some people are known to have a low tear threshold, and can be so moved by the drama in a movie that they go through several packages of tissue paper during a single film. We may see them as fragile or emotional, and men who cry at the movies are likely to be made fun of, but there’s no need to hide your tears at the cinema. You might even want to feel proud of those tears, because crying at the movies shows your humanity, highlights your empathy, and is the sign of someone with a strong EQ - even someone fit for leadership.

When a movie tugs at our genuine emotions, this is a symbol of greater empathy. This kind of person can put themselves in the character’s place, feel what they feel, and place themselves within the same sorts of situations, like the old saying “walking in someone else’s shoes.”

When a sad movie or a novel makes you cry, this is the work of mirror neurons. Located in the motor cortex, mirror neurons are natural-born copycats, getting anxious, shivering, or crying for the leading character, even though these events take place outside the self. This is because certain nerve cells in the brain resonate with others, so that seeing other people’s behavior feels like it is happening to one’s self. The existence of mirror neurons is the foundation for emulating, learning from, and conducting significant exchanges with others.

A high degree of empathy is considered a part of emotional intelligence (EQ), and a vital ability for excellent leaders. As one of the jobs of leaders is management of interpersonal connections, a leader with empathy will not miss important information for the organization, and can better understand the needs of team members, clients, and outside interests thanks to keen empathy. As noted by strategy guru Michael Porter, empathy is an important quality of leaders.

We also cry during movies because the brain releases oxytocin, which heightens our responses to the things around us.

Researchers at the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands discovered that viewers who cried during a sad movie felt more relaxed afterwards. Although they started out feeling depressed, they steadily re-gained equilibrium, and after about 90 minutes felt emotionally refreshed.

Researcher Asmir Gračanin explained during an interview that crying may trigger the brain to release oxytocin, a substance that helps people see things from different perspectives, show more concern for others, and more willingly help others, even if the counterpart is a stranger.

A good leader provides a sense of security, which is an effect of oxytocin.

In his book Leaders Eat Last, new-generation management guru Simon Sinek reminds readers that consistent, lasting success can only come from a culture of empathy, and that a true leader does not sacrifice long-term interests to reach short-term goals; rather, he places workers before statistics, fostering a deep sense of trust in colleagues. In other words, how far can we go without putting up defenses? Friendship, trust, empathy, and loyalty are the qualities that forge an inseparable team that cannot be recruited away.

(Read: What Does It Mean to Be a Good Leader?)

These qualities grow out from empathy, and the effects of oxytocin. So people who cry at movies are not weak, and could even potentially have strong management skills.

Simon Sinek on TED Talks: Why good leaders make you feel safe

Translated by David Toman
Edited by Sharon Tseng

Additional Reading

Justin Trudeau: What Makes a Good Leader?
Why Being Too Intelligent Might Make You a Worse Leader?
The Century of the Peacemaker