Peter Bregman has never met a ski slope he didn’t like.

While his weekdays may be filled with writing and speaking engagements, this CEO advisor openly admits that he spends as many weekends as possible perfecting his turns and learning to be better than the year before. He estimates that he’s been skiing every weekend for 41 years, to the point that skiing is as instinctual as walking for him. When asked what type of skiing he enjoys, Peter leaves nothing out: Moguls, flat, powder, ice…

“It’s like leadership actually,” he suggests. “If you have one leadership style, then there’s only one slope you can ski but if you have this wide toolkit…” He expands the idea, showcasing once again why he is a favorite on the TEDx speaking circuit. Peter has devoted much of his career to the examination of leadership and feelings, and within minutes of the interview starting it’s obvious that it is a topic about which he has…well, strong feelings.

“We do everything we do in life in order to generate feeling, and if we’re willing to feel anything, we can do anything. So if I’m not willing to feel those uncomfortable feelings of listening to someone when I disagree with them, I’m not going to listen to them. And then I’m going to be a poor leader. And if I’m willing to feel everything – I might feel my anger. I might feel my own defensiveness. I might feel my curiosity or my uncertainty or my fear. I might feel all of that and if I’m willing to feel all of that … if I’m willing to feel it, then I can sit quietly and listen.”

In July Peter released his new book, Leading With Emotional Courage, which expands on the idea that if leaders are willing to feel everything they will build better teams and accomplish more difficult tasks. It’s a labor of love for Peter, who hopes that the book will help others become more willing to examine their feelings and be present in each moment.

“I’ve spent a lot of time trying to close the gaps between what we want to have happen in the world and what happens in the world, and how we want to be in the world and how we are. What we want to do in the world and what we end up doing. And there’s a huge gap…there’s constantly a gap and I’m trying to close it for myself; I’m trying to live up to my own expectations, and, and I’m trying to help other people close it.”

I found many inspiring and fascinating nuggets in Peter’s book, as well as this interview, and I hope after you listen to this podcast you take the time to track down a copy of Leading With Emotional Courage for yourself.

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Takeaways from this episode:

  • Listening is important for every leader, but we need to make sure we’re listening well. It’s important to listen to ideas and opinions that are different from our own, and allow ourselves to feel uncomfortable. Try turning on a TV or radio station with opposite political leanings than your own to practice hearing things that make you uncomfortable.
  • When we feel vulnerable and are unwilling to feel our emotions, it can result in a positive or a negative: we may do something we don’t want to do, or won’t follow through on something we want to follow through on. If we feel something we can move forward and through it. If we repress our emotions, we will do all sorts of things to feel good in the moment and keep them repressed, losing our freedom.
  • Being willing to feel is a skill. It takes practice.
  • Start difficult conversations with the punchline. Don’t beat around the bush. Have a meaningful conversation and get to the point.
  • Don’t lose yourself to the identity that you put out into the world. You may be totally irrelevant to the sunset, but the sunset can matter to you. Similarly, allow the world to matter to you, but don’t worry if you feel you don’t particularly matter to the world.
  • Remember to laugh. To laugh, really laugh, you must be present in the moment. It’s worth it.

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