Emotional Intelligence

The Hidden and Sometimes Scary Key to Impactful Leadership…Our Feelings

“To master your emotions is not to suppress them.
It is to process them with diligence and express them with intelligence.”- Kam Taj

In my 15 or so years working with leaders, there is one topic that has stood out as The One to go gently on: Feelings.

Expressing emotions in the business world is (still) oftentimes viewed as useless and inappropriate. After all, people are hired to get the job done, not to feel, right?

And in the case where some feelings, like enthusiasm, passion and inspiration might occasionally be acceptable, any feeling such as sadness, fear or anger indicating an unmet need erroneously seems to signify an irrational, unstable or weak person.

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth: our emotions can play a pivotal role in leadership, even guiding the decision-making process. Think of emotions as a compass that can guide our choices.

Do you believe that disagreeable emotions have no place in leadership? Think again. Consider fear – this instinctual response can alert us to danger…and even help to protect us. Emotions are information about what might be missing for us. That’s powerful, isn’t it?

Enter Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) – is the ability to perceive, manage, express, and understand one’s own emotions as well as others. The benefits of EQ can positively impact everything from everyday workplace productivity to the entire culture of an organization.

In fact, according to Oxford Leadership, developing our emotional intelligence not only makes us better leaders, it can be attributed to:

  • 58% of job performance
  • 90% of top performers
  • an additional $29,000 in compensation annually

Leading With Your Heart or Your Head?

Use Both. A clear example of using emotional intelligence as a strategic tool is revealed in a powerful book, “Leading with Feeling: Nine Strategies of Emotionally Intelligent Leadership,” by Dr. Cary Cherniss and Dr. Cornelia W. Roche.

They cite the story of Tom, a young, successful engineer in a large steel company who suddenly finds himself a manager. At a meeting with a major auto manufacturer firm his firm supplied, Tom was bluntly told he and his team were lousy at just about everything they did.

For Tom, it was like having the rug pulled out from underneath. Now what, he thought?

Instead of immediately reacting, he took the time to listen to their lengthy list of complaints. Then Tom spoke from a place of contained emotions, telling his critics: “I wouldn’t blame you if you fired us as a supplier. But if you give us a chance to fix the problems, I guarantee you that we will not have this kind of meeting next year.”

Tom met with his team, asking for their explanation for the poor performances. He refrained from lashing out, from berating anyone.

Take the Time to Listen

Instead, Tom took the time to understand his team, to ask questions and listen to their answers. He then asked: “What can we do to remedy the problem?”

What was a profound outcome of Tom’s response to the many criticisms thrown his way?

His team had a clear realization that Tom cared.

The next year, at a meeting with the formerly disgruntled company, he heard the best news of his career – they had never witnessed such a turnaround in business in just a year.

How did Tom do it?

He effectively used his emotional intelligence: he perceived and understood his own emotions, how to use them to his benefit and he was able to tap into the emotions of those around him.

To become the best version of ourselves and to achieve the best possible results, every leader can (and should) develop emotional intelligence. This is how we can build teams that believe – and trust – in us.

“It is very important to understand that emotional intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence, it is not the triumph of heart over head–it is the unique intersection of both.” – David Caruso

What are the Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence?

The School of Life lists 26 ways to determine how emotionally mature we are. Among them are:

  • Understanding the enormous influence of so-called ‘small’ things on mood: bed-times, blood sugar and alcohol levels, degrees of background stress etc.
  • Learning that what is in our head can’t automatically be understood by other people.
  • Realizing that most of the bad behavior of other people really comes down to fear and anxiety.

We know that the most impactful leaders are emotionally intelligent – and people are naturally drawn to them.

They are not impulsive or quick to act and think before they speak, much like the example of Tom, the successful engineer in the example above.

An impulsive, non-emotionally intelligent person finding themselves in a situation like Tom’s would most likely behave in a defensive, blaming manner. Such reactions most often result in undesirable outcomes like tense relationships, information hoarding, and victim stances toward growth.

Increasing Your Emotional Intelligence

Abhi Golhar writes in Inc., stating that statistical data has proven that employees with high levels of emotional intelligence see profound increases in productivity and sales.

Can we learn to be emotionally intelligent? Absolutely.

Some highlights from Golhar’s suggestions:

  • Develop an assertive – not aggressive – style of communication.
  • Mindfully respond instead of reacting to situations.
  • Listen more. (This is a key trait for every leader to develop, read more here…)
  • Cultivate a positive, can-do attitude.
  • Show empathy to those around you. (Here are simple strategies to try in this article.)

Practicing Self-Awareness or Self-Reflection is a Solid Foundation to Developing Emotional Intelligence.

Today, get on the metaphorical balcony to observe your emotions. And, rather than labelling them as “good” or “bad,” see them, as the Center for Nonviolent Communication does, simply as emotions when your needs are satisfied and emotions when your needs are not satisfied.

Understanding the source of your own emotions more deeply, cultivating a knack for appropriately expressing them – and being able to hold the space for others to do the same – is where your leadership genius can take root.

“Leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings or squander an unreasonable of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behavior.” – Brene Brown

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Body Wisdom: An Essential Part Of Great Leadership

Body Wisdom: An Essential Part Of Great Leadership

Have you ever decided to do something—or not do something—based on a “gut feeling?” Your head was giving you facts to lead you in the opposite direction, but you made your choice because it physically “felt” like the right way to proceed—and it was.

This is body wisdom. While we tend to rely on our intellect and even our emotions to make decisions, it’s also important to learn how to listen to what your body is telling you, because it often has the answer that’s in our best interests.

Building Body Awareness

Our body often is the first thing that lets us know if we’re stressed, angry, excited. Our stomach churns, our heart beats faster, we feel “butterflies” in our stomach, we suddenly stand up.

According to the website Leadership That Works, “Our desire for change starts in our body…The world of thought and evaluation is a tiny fraction of the knowledge that is available to us. Paying attention to the body gives us a deeper sense of our innate wisdom.”

The site Wisdom Works says, “While our minds naturally delete, distort, and generalize information to make the complexity of our worlds easier to digest, our body simply tells it like it is. Once we get waylaid by any of the common triggers of stress, our body speaks up loud and clear.”

If you start building an awareness of how your body reacts in different situations, you’re learning how to understand the wisdom it has to offer and then use that when making choices or decisions. You’ll also know when your stress levels are creeping up so you can take steps to avoid a resulting illness.

Body Wisdom And Leadership

The body’s wisdom can be a huge asset in business leadership. Wise leaders are in touch with and able to correctly interpret what their body is telling them regarding any number of decisions and what effect those decisions are having on you as a leader.

“Being ‘body wise’ can help us lead better,” states Wisdom Works. “Our physical being echoes every thought, feeling, and action we take. As a result, information from our body is a trustworthy feedback and guidance system, always at our disposal. When we ignore our bodies’ wisdom, we put ourselves and our teams at risk for poor performance and burnout…”

Effective leaders have learned how to consult their bodies, as well as their hearts and minds, to make decisions that positively impact themselves, their teams, and the world at large.

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Heart-Centered Leadership Traits

Effective Leadership Starts With Your Heart

Endless books and articles have strategies on how to build your business and increase profits through effective leadership. However, current research is proving that more effective, long-term success happens when you lead with your heart.

A People-First Approach

The site Leadership Freak describes heart-centered leadership as difficult but also potentially life-changing for both the leaders and those they manage because it puts people ahead of business outcomes. While a competent leader will expect results, an extraordinary leader asks for those results using a heart-centered approach.

It’s about finding the right balance. “All heart without results is weak. All results without heart is ugly,” says the site.

In a recent Inc.com article, Susan Steinbrecher, CEO of Steinbrecher and Associates, cites a 2012 Towers-Watson study of 50 global companies and their leadership strategies. The companies that focused on a people-first leadership approach and other people-centric business strategies had a one-year operating margin that was three times higher than companies who ignored this strategy.

According to Steinbrecher, “There is strong evidence that these results may be due to the positive impact that a more heart-centered leadership approach has on employee performance.”

Heart-Centered Leadership Traits

Below is a partial list of the qualities found in a heart-centered leader, taken from the Leadership Freak and Inc.com sites. If you see yourself in this list, congratulations! If you don’t, consider trying to work them into your management style. You might be amazed at what happens for you and your team.

Heart-centered leadership means:

  • You care more about values than results.
  • You speak the truth to others, and expect them to so the same with you.
  • Your goal is to serve the people you lead rather than them serving you.
  • You are compassionate, grateful, and a good listener.
  • You’re not afraid to admit your mistakes and ask forgiveness from others.
  • You’re committed to personal and professional growth for both you and your team members.
  • You work hard to build self-esteem in others and help them shine.
  • You assume the good in others, even if their actions indicate otherwise.
  • You consistently touch base with your team for both business and personal conversations.
  • You are dedicated to making a difference in your life, the lives of your team, and society as a whole.

To be an effective leader with a thriving business, plan with your head but lead with your heart.

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Image courtesy of Ventrilock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Introvert OR Extrovert: Who Makes the BETTER LEADER?


Extroverts are the best leaders. You have to be a “people person” if you want to lead. Most leaders are extroverts. How many times have you heard these or similar statements? Are such statements true? Maybe, maybe not.

Introverts Can Shine as Leaders, Too

According to The Hidden Advantages of Quiet Bosses, an HBR article penned by Adam Grant, Francesca Gino, and David A. Hoffman, “In a dynamic, unpredictable environment, introverts are often more effective leaders – particularly when workers are proactive, offering ideas for improving the business.”

Indeed, introverts may possess certain qualities that can make them shine as outstanding leaders. LinkedIn writer Rahul Sinha cites countless admired and successful people who are introverts: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Michael Jordan, Charles Schwab, Larry Page, Steve Wozniak, J.K. Rowling and Steven Spielberg.

5 Introverted Qualities that Make for Effective Leadership

In fact, there are people you’re working with right now who are introverts – and you don’t even realize it. If you’re an introvert yourself, here are aIntrovert OR Extrovert: Who Makes the BETTER LEADER? few qualities that are likely to make you shine as a leader:

  1. You’re a good listener. There are tons of articles out there on why listening is integral to effective leadership, and for good reason: listening well is the foundation for good communication. Here are two articles from Forbes: one on how listening can make you a better leader, and one on why leaders need to “shut up and listen.”
  2. You don’t mind being alone. Some of us get our energy from being around people; others recharge their batteries when they spend time alone. Time spent in solitude gives you a chance to reflect, reason, create new visions for a project, or just rejuvenate so you’re operating at your very best.
  3. You give thoughtful consideration to things. You’re a “wizard of preparation”. According to Sinha, “Thoughtfulness, consideration, and thorough preparation are principles every leader should use. But for introverts, these vital principles come inherently.”
  4. You dig deeper. Here’s another powerful quote about introverts from Sinha, “They are attracted to significant discussions, not insignificant talk.” This also ties into #1 above, listening. Many introverts dig deep: they ask the right questions – and listen well to the response they receive in return.
  5. You’re the King (or Queen!) of cool. Ok, so I threw that in there for some added humor…But really, many of us think of introverts as more reserved and calm with a relaxed approach, which is also excellent for bringing out the best in the people you lead.

Interested in learning more about extraversion and introversion? Check out the Myers & Briggs Foundation.

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Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Power Of Social + Emotional Intelligence

A study conducted by Michelle McQuaid and published in Business Wire found that of 1,000 Americans surveyed, just 36% were happy at their job and a whopping 65% would choose a new boss over a pay raise.

McQuaid, a leader in positive psychology workplace interventions, says that the current situation in American workplaces not only takes a substantial personal toll on employees, but it costs $360 billon yearly in lost productivity.

Of the 1,000 Americans polled,

  • 60% said they would do a better job if they had a better relationship with their boss
  • 47% say their boss does not stay calm and in control
  • 31% feel uninspired and unappreciated by their boss
  • 20% say their boss has little or no integrity
  • 73% of those in their 20s and 30s and 40% of those over 50 said their health is compromised because of the impact of a bad boss

What is Social + Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence | EI | IQ | EQSocial and emotional intelligence is defined by the Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence as the ability to be aware of our own emotions and those of others, in the moment, and to use that information to manage ourselves and manage our relationships.

When it comes to intelligence, the IQ part (cognitive intelligence) is only the tip of the iceberg. Social and emotional intelligence (S+EI) is not just about being a nice person.

Emotional intelligence is about personal power – an inner confidence that an individual has that she can handle whatever curveballs life throws her way.  It’s about an inner self-confidence and positive self-regard, appropriate assertiveness, and integrity.

Social intelligence is about building trust and forming bonds. Social intelligence is about connecting to people and understanding them to build stronger relationships.

Many organizations often overlook the value of social intelligence.  And, employees sometimes don’t realize the difference social intelligence can make in career advancement.

The Impact of Social + Emotional Intelligence

It’s not difficult to see that the powerful impact social and emotional intelligence can have in the workplace.  The key to integrating social and emotional intelligence in the workplace involves an assessment (which generates awareness), training programs, introducing the concept into the culture, and individual development programs (coaching).

Social and emotional intelligence is key to the success of an organization.  As important is S+EI is for an organization, it’s equally important to individual well-being.  Whereas social intelligence encourages the individual to be aware of their environment and the needs of others, emotional intelligence asks the individual to examine their own behavior to implement the best choices.

Social and emotional intelligence is not about changing personality – it’s about changing behavior – because behavior is a choice.  Social and emotional intelligence coaching encourages individuals to examine their behavior and make different choices.

Psychologists tell us that personality is formed by the time a child reaches 6 or 7.  Over the course of the individual’s lifetime, personality remains mostly unchanged.  Behavior is influenced by both environment and personality.

When we build social and emotional intelligence in the workplace, we create stronger leadership and ultimately, a more productive, rewarding, resilient environment.