A highly successful leader is like an iceberg. What you see is only 10% of their power, the other 90%, it’s real core, is invisible to the eye.
This invisible power was described by Daniel Goleman in 1995 in his book Emotional Intelligence. Numerous studies on most effective leaders discovered that Emotional Intelligence (EI) skills were twice as essential in business success at any level than the technical skills. They were even more critical for leaders in more senior roles.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
EI is the ability to manage ourselves and as a consequence create and maintain effective relationships with others.
Humans are tribal creatures; we need others to survive emotionally and physically. Moreover, in the business world, there is no winning without building and cultivating long-lasting and healthy relationships with other people.
Now you are going to tell me, OK Maggie that’s great, but if I was not born with high EQ, I cannot do anything about it.
My answer: Yes you can!
It is a common misconception that EI is embedded in our DNA and there is nothing we can do to improve it. Unlike IQ, which indeed is mostly genetically inherited, you can learn the EI skills at any age. Yes, agreed, it not easy, and yes it takes time, but your ROI (Return on Investment) is well worth it!
As Tom Hanks would say: If it weren’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.
Are you motivated enough now to ask, OK so what’s next? Where do I start?
Start with Self-Awareness
As a leader, you need to start with yourself.
Gene Mauch said it the best: You can’t lead anyone else further than you have gone yourself.
And Frances Hesselbein’s quote is also spot on:
It takes courage for a leader to identify and confront self-imposed barriers, to put in place the personal strategies required to unleash the energy, innovation, and commitment to self-development.Frances Hesselbein
Being able to read and understand your emotions, as well as recognize the impact they have on people around you, are the first steps to the successful development of your EI skills.
Some people are able to realistically evaluate their strengths and limitations by themselves, but most of us need help. We are usually too close to our problems to see where they are created, their root cause.
That is why the best way to start is to ask people around you, people that you trust to tell you the truth. Maybe it’s your mother (I know I can count on mine), your significant other, best friend, a co-worker or manager.
However, if you don’t feel comfortable asking people close to you and want to keep things “private,” I will pull a shameless plug and say: hire a coach, i.e., me 😊, click here and let’s chat!
Think about it, the most powerful and successful leaders since ancient times have had an army of advisors, consultants, and coaches behind them. Why? Because no one can do it alone anyways and sometimes we need to let others save us from ourselves.
Next, identify 1-3 EI competencies you want to improve.
When I look at the list of different EI capabilities falling into four main categories: self-awareness; self-management; social awareness, and relationship management, I know that I could work and improve on most of them.
However, picking too many and overwhelming yourselves with the pressure is only going to discourage you from doing it.
That’s why you should pick one to maximum three at a time and focus on them. For example, if you are a new people leader, maybe your two skills to master will be the ability to develop others and conflict management. On the other hand, if you are a new entrepreneur and need to pitch to investors or start selling your products, you might want to focus on your communication skills. It’s because communication is not only about convincing others to your point of view or sending clear and convincing written messages but also about listening and asking great questions.
See my point? It’s impossible to do it all at once but couple at a time, totally doable!
When you see a roadblock or challenge as an opportunity, it is amazing how you are already halfway there. ― Frances Hesselbein
Last, get to work!
Once you have decided what aspects of your EI you will work on improving, now it’s time to get to work.
To to that develop a plan that maps out your road to success. If you don’t know where to start, again, ask your friends, colleagues, manager or mentors to help you. First, think about things that do not go well when you communicate or try to manage people. Ask yourself why? Next, think of what you can do differently to change that. Then get practicing.
Lastly, you will need consistency and commitment to see results. Unlike learning technical skills, where we use our thinking brain that can gain knowledge very quickly, improving your EI requires the use of the emotional brain. To master a new skill, our emotional centers need us to repeat the behavior consistently over a prolonged period. The brain is learning a new “emotional habit.”
Are you feeling discouraged? Don’t be! Remember the ROI here is huge!
Personal development is a major time-saver. The better you become, the less time it takes you to achieve your goals. ― Brian Tracy
To conclude: “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four-hour days.” — Zig Ziglar
Leadership is in many ways similar to parenthood. Although not an exact science, it is also not a total mystery. There are many skills and capabilities that you can learn and improve. The recent research in both domains has helped us understand the psychological and behavioral aspects of each job.
With the Emotional Intelligence uncovered, we can now see not only “the tip of the iceberg” of the most successful leaders but also what’s beneath it. And most importantly, we understand better now how to learn the skills and make this hidden strength happen for us. So, don’t wait, start working on it today!
And if you need someone to guide you on this journey, click here to connect with me and I’ll be happy to help!