According to Mahatma Gandhi, “leadership at one time meant muscles, but today it means getting along with people.” Emotional Intelligent (EQ) leaders ensure employees adopt a growth mindset, are empowered to seek answers to ambiguous problems, to find opportunities in setbacks, to adapt to changing circumstances and to pursue meaningful work. The importance of EQ is well established. The more complex question is how to build EQ leaders so that the benefits can be achieved. Here are 5 top tips for leaders to do just that.
1. Tune in The root of EQ is authenticity. Our intentions and beliefs need to align to our actions and behaviours. Our ‘walk’ needs to match our ‘talk’. To lead others with emotional intelligence, it is first important to be truly aware of your own emotions and how they impact your body and mind. Daniel Goleman says that strong leaders “slow down to speed up”. It is important to take time to reflect every day, to tune into your core instincts so that you can give reflection to the messages your body is sending - connecting thoughts with feelings and feelings with thoughts. Empathy allows us to connect with others in a real and meaningful way. EQ leaders tune in to the feelings of others as well as their words to ensure those that work for them feel understood. It is the best way to reduce conflict, resolve problems and influence positive outcomes. 2. Be self-aware Awareness is the core of everything. It describes your ability to not only understand your strengths and weaknesses, but to immediately recognise in any given situation your emotions and how they impact individual and team performance. Research from the book Insight written by organisational psychologist, Tasha Eurich, indicates that 95% of people think they are self-aware but in fact only 10-15% actually are. An easy way to assess and improve your self-awareness is to complete regular 360-degree feedback where you can evaluate your own performance and compare it to feedback from your peers, direct reports and superiors. 3. Be curious Curiosity generates a questioning mindset that explores the emotional ‘why’ to people and situations. Curiosity helps identify and solve problems before they arise, find better ways of working and ensures life-long learning and growth. Creating space for reflection, exploration and learning without judgements fosters a safe environment for curiosity. EQ leaders are comfortable with ambiguity, invest time in wonder and exploration and actively seek the thoughts of others to uncover hidden gems of insights and solutions to improve future performance. They invest less in outcomes and more in possibilities and reflection. 4. Be adaptable As the Chinese proverb states “the wise adapt themselves to circumstance, as water moulds itself to the pitcher”. EQ leadership requires flexibility, responsiveness, willingness to take on new ways of working and handling of situations. Change is inevitable, constant and complex. Leaders now have to navigate new cultures, jobs, markets and competition. EQ leaders see change as a way to distinguish themselves and an opportunity to achieve success. Maria Konnikova, author of the book The Confidence Game advices, “Frame adversity as a challenge and you become more flexible and able to deal with it, move on, learn from it and grow.” 5. Be positive Leaders who express positive emotions are more resilient, resourceful and socially connected. They drive a culture which is conducive to creativity and problem solving because employees feel safe and trust their leader to assess new solutions in a positive, balanced way. This is particularly important in stressful situations. EQ leaders intentionally respond rather than automatically react to all situations including adverse and challenging ones. They know how to stay calm and focus on the true goal of a workable resolution and they align their actions and words to achieve this. In conclusion A highly skilled leader in EQ empowers, motivates and inspires others to achieve their best and ultimately enables them to build high performance work climates that sustain the organisation into the future. Remember, in the words of Maya Angelou – the American poet and civil rights activist – “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.”