Leadership is a people business.
If you weren’t working with other people, you wouldn’t be a leader. You’d just be some crazed shouty guy on his own in a badly-lit office.
And, without a personality yourself, you would just be an app. You would just be regulating the flow of work, like an algorithm unable to bend or adapt to the human values around you.
At the heart of what makes us human is our emotions. We can concede that as a human with a personality and a workforce, you are technically a leader. But, if you don’t understand or can’t work with your emotions and those of your colleagues, then you’re not going to be a very effective one.
There is a name for that crucial faculty for understanding emotions and that is emotional intelligence or EQ for short. Everybody has at least an ounce of it. Some just have a different type than others. For the greatest leaders, it is as vital as water or air.
So what are the constituents of EQ?
There are three factors that add up to create your emotional intelligence. They are:
• Perceiving and understanding emotions. This is the basic ability to tell one emotion from another and their intensity in yourself and in others.
• Managing emotions. This is about keeping your emotions under control and the ability to consciously affect the emotions of your colleagues.
• Utilizing emotions. This is next level stuff. It is your ability to harness emotions and drive them towards helping you or your employees towards accomplishing tasks.
If these seem like unattainable superpowers to you, it’s time to start taking some specific steps to develop your abilities and learn what makes emotional intelligence for leaders.
How to assess your EQ
Figuring out your strengths and weaknesses can help you to identify which elements of your emotional intelligence need some work.
Emotional intelligence is a matter of responsibility, mindfulness and empathy. Ask yourself how you score on these factors in various scenarios and find out more about your EQ.
For example, when you wake up in the morning and you know you have a ton of work to do, what is your instinct?
If your first idea is to make a plan and work through your tasks, you can consider yourself pretty responsible. If your immediate idea is to roll over and go back to sleep until the big bad work has gone away, well, that’s less responsible.
You might want to take some time by yourself to figure out why you’re in the line of work you are and what leading your team truly means to you.
How about when you reach the end of a tough day and you’re full of stress and rejected? Do you push it down, like a supposedly good, strong leader?
Well, that’s not dealing with the problem. It’s a fast-track to burnout. Your humanity doesn’t stop at the seams of your suit. You have a soul to listen to, too.
Instead, when you’re feeling stressed, try using mindfulness techniques to reconnect with your core. You can go for a walk, listen to the sounds around you, name the colors you can see from where you’re standing or name the emotions that you’re feeling.
Suppose you have good reason to pass that heavy workload onto a colleague who’s just as busy as you. Regardless of whether that was the right or wrong decision, did you stop to think about how that would make him feel?
Dishing out heavy workloads without a thought for the emotional consequences puts you back in the ‘app’ territory. In other words, you have about as much empathy as a smartphone.
Slow down, try to only give out tough tasks face to face and make eye contact. Train yourself to remember there’s a human being behind every workplace accomplishment.
How to boost your EQ
So, now you have a pretty good idea where your EQ levels are at. Unless you’re Oprah or Mr. Rogers, there’s probably room for improvement.
Most of it is stuff you can do as you work. Slow down, try to identify problems as they arise instead of steaming through them and apply some of these techniques to train your EQ:
Improving your perception of emotions
Take some ‘me’ time. Put fifteen minutes aside each day to think about what you’ve felt at various junctures. Reflect on how you felt in your mind and the way it made your body feel. Soon you will come to better recognize your emotions in real time.
And take some ‘you’ time. Observe how the individuals in your team respond to situations and to each other. When one of them has a problem, ask yourself what the reason behind their behavior might be.
Are they overworked? Insecure? Unfulfilled? How does it feel to be that person wearing those shoes?
It doesn’t mean you need to tolerate their behavior, but it might help you find ways to rectify it without negatively impacting the team.
Improving your management of emotions
So, you’ve slowed down and you’ve figured out you’re stressed, what next?
A change of context is always good and can help you get perspective. If you’re hot and bothered, splash water on your face. If you’re furious and full of self-loathing, spend five minutes watering the office plants. Seriously.
Likewise, if you sense negative emotions in others, don’t rise to them. Instead, take a minute to collect yourself, take a deep breath and suggest they do the same.
Improving your utilization of emotions
Emotions are a powerful force. We’ve already seen how they make us human. Now, imagine if you could harness that power like a solar panel.
You can do that by tracing those emotions to their roots, figuring out what the problem is and working on it. If you feel out of your depth, write a plan. If your colleagues feel bitter and unfulfilled, give them a challenge right when they’re hungriest for it.
Now, your EQ level just rose from ‘political tyrant’ to ‘leadership ninja’. Work is about to get much better for you and all your loyal team.