There is the constant quest to define the qualities that make a great leader. This quest will go on until the end of time, as it should. It will be a constantly changing proposition because as a consequence of our rapidly changing environment leaders need to constantly evolve, shift, adapt and ensure they are relevant.
Now more than ever people are seeking genuine connection, not to be treated like a number or someone to simply fill a vacancy. They want to be and feel valued, they want and need purpose to their work and they are seeking strong role models to emulate. All of these are emotional drivers that can often challenge the contemporary leader, particularly if they are busy. After all, results are what we are striving for right? Who has time for this emotional stuff?
In saying that, one thing that the 21st century leader needs in spades is self-awareness. To effectively manage change, volatility, different generations and the complexities of business, leaders need to learn to tap into their EQ to get great results. Equally important is a leader's ability to manage and avoid this busy culture that we have been sucked into. If you are unaware of how busy is consuming you, you will not be successful, personally or professionally. It’s as simple as that.
EQ, or emotional quotient, refers to our capacity to recognise our own, and other people's emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and, to use emotional information to guide our thinking and behaviours. Our emotions drive our behavior and impact on people, positively or negatively, and EQ refers to how effectively we manage these emotions - both our own and others - especially when we are under pressure. Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author of bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence, uncovered that our emotions play a much bigger role in thought, decision making and success than is commonly acknowledged.
The five categories of EQ
According to Goleman, there are five components that make up your EQ. Once you understand them you will begin to realise why having a great deal of emotional intelligence makes a huge difference in how effectively you lead people and to your level of success.
The five categories that determine your level of EQ are:
- Self-awareness - your ability to recognise an emotion as it happens. If you can evaluate your emotions you can manage them and understand how your emotions impact on others.
- Self-regulation - if you're not in control of your emotions, you can become abrasive or resistant to change. Those who can control their emotions, however, avoid the temptation to be controlled by their immediate emotions, take responsibility for their actions, can adapt well in the face of change, and are open to new ideas.
- Motivation - this goes without saying, motivated individuals are constantly striving to improve. They are also less likely to get discouraged when faced with setbacks or opposition. This is critical today because leaders are constantly faced with challenge, change and competition.
- Empathy - your ability to recognise how people feel and how your actions can affect them. Truly understanding someone means putting yourself in his or her shoes. When you can pick up on how others feel, you are in a better position to motivate them.
- Social skills - these are important regardless of what type of career you have. This includes effectively listening and verbally communicating to others.
Emotional intelligence has taken on greater significance as you must be able to better understand, empathise and negotiate with others in what is now a technology-driven global economy. This is not only important for your team but your clients also.
Self-regulating your habits
As a leader of self, you must be able to have the self-awareness around the habits you are creating for yourself, both good and bad, and have the ability to self regulate. Meaning the ability to recognise the bad habits you have fallen into, understand how to stop them and implement the change required to mitigate them. Also to have the ability to continue with them and leverage the good habits you have. Then you need the motivation to persist when times get tough.
An example of this is a business owner I was working with who fell out of the habit of having one-on-one coaching conversations with his team. On a couple of occasions he became too busy to sit down and dedicate the time to his team members so postponed the meetings. Client demands and some significant fire fighting took priority and consumed his time. The meetings were continually postponed to the point they didn’t happen. Good habit broken, and so easily at that.
This leader had become so distracted and disconnected due to his busyness but the bigger issue was he was unaware of it until I asked him the question about how often he coached his team. He was devastated that he'd let this priority slip and took a step back to reflect on the bad habits he’d gotten into. Reactiveness was dictating and controlling his time - he wasn’t. Another thing he hadn’t noticed was how reactive and busy the team had become. They were feeding off his energy and results were suffering. He needed to turn this around and get back into good habits that aligned with his priorities and assist his team to do the same. Was that easy? No. Any change can be difficult, but he took responsibility, stuck with it and changed what was unresourceful to things that were much more resourceful. He committed to tapping back into his EQ and his results reflected that.
There are enormous benefits in being able to tap into your EQ. A leader with EQ will be better at being able to identify and hear what is going on with their people and be able to address concerns before they get to a critical point and reflect in low engagement scores or high turnover rates. Or worse, complete burnout. You'll be able to engage and inspire your team and build strong relationships with them empowering them to succeed and be the best they can be. You can be a role model for avoiding busyness and demonstrating what is possible when you do. This is when you are relevant in your leadership and you can extend your influence in a broader context. It's not as difficult as you may think.