This post is a reblog of my guest spot on Kimberly's leadership series in 2015! Original post can be found here.
"Whatever you believe, with feeling, becomes your reality. You do not believe what you see; you see what you have already chosen to believe.” Brian Tracy
Emotional Intelligence seems to be a buzzword these days. It’s clumped together with other inventories, such as StrengthsQuest or MBTI, and since there are many assessments that can be taken to gauge your EQ (or your team’s), we spend lots of time thinking about emotional intelligence as a score and looking to have the best in each area. I think emotional intelligence can flourish in leaders if they just take a step back, be reflective in their own work (recognizing and managing their feelings, recognizing that others have feelings too, and learning how best to interact, empathize, and engage with people), they can emerge as relationship-oriented leaders…ones where your team will want to follow because they feel appreciated, understood, and also held accountable.
How we feel about something shapes our reality.The fact the we (humans…) are emotional beings is nothing new. EI was popularized by David Goleman and many other iterations of “how-to’s” on Emotional Intelligence. While leadership earlier focused on task-oriented behaviors, there’s research which demonstrates connecting with your own emotions and then the feelings of others can have a huge impact on the leader and their followers–frequently called transformational leadership (Haver, Akerjordet, & Furunes, 2013; Mandell & Pherwani, 2003; Salovey & Mayer, 1989). But really–if I care about someone else’s feelings, I am inching towards a more transformational style.
Emotional Intelligence focuses on 4 specific domains–how you understand and manage yourself, and how you understand and influence others.
My emotions affect how I choose to understand and respond to situations. I was so unhappy that a relatively low budget proposal wasn’t approved recently. But, the truth is, while some of my peers were behind the proposal, I was really the spokesperson. So, I shouldn’t have been as disappointed as I was. Taking some time to reflect on how I was feeling about the setback helped me realize I was more disappointed at how I was perceived by the decision-makers and saddened at the idea that I may not have been taken “seriously.” The proposal was actually pretty good–but it was more interpersonal issues that stopped it. Without that reflection on my feelings, I might not have reflected on what actions I could take (get more stakeholders/partnerships, network prior to the proposal meeting) to help the proposal move forward–I might have just judged the proposal as “unneeded” and stayed angry. Focusing on feelings/emotions has helped me recognize, as a partner and parent, that other’s anger (say, a tantrum from a 5 year old!!) is very real to them–and controlling my response helps them learn to control theirs through modeling. I can’t control someone else’s feelings–but I can influence, model and control my own. The rest is up to them.
Emotional Intelligence helps me recognize why the staff respond or react in a certain way. As a leaders and supervisor, I tend to only see a reaction or response–I really am privileged to side conversations or inner self-talk of the staff. Attempting to recognize feelings and motivations allows me to be empathetic (place myself in their shoes) and craft my response to their needs more individually for each staff member. I also teach them to be in “power mode” which means to always know they are in control of their response and communication delivery. A pure reaction and feeling out of control is “weak mode.”
These concepts, which I originally began implementing as applied Emotional Intelligence as a supervisory model and leadership development, turned into a course for undergraduates–both emerging leaders and students who might feel out of control in their own life–called Personal Empowerment. We cover concepts like “power mode” but also emotional regulation, self-talk and inner self-defeating gossip, and caretaking (taking over a situation so that someone is dependent on you) versus caregiving (helping someone else be independent).
In essence, applying emotional intelligence to any situation means reflecting on how you feel about the situation, how your feelings are crafting a reaction or response, how your actions may influence others’ feelings, and how your actions affect the atmosphere, culture, and feelings of your group. When you show empathy and see a peer or colleague as a person, capable of mistakes and also capable great accomplishments, they will be empowered to be themselves and lead. Being authentically caring, honest, and recognizing that many of us are relationship-oriented beings, is the heart of implementing an Emotional Intelligence based leadership and supervisory style.