Category: Leadership

Emotional Intelligence: The #1 Skill Needed by Leaders

Now more than ever, emotional intelligence is the most important skill a leader can learn. And yes, anyone can learn how to be more emotionally intelligent. People call emotional intelligence a soft skill, but we consider it an essential skill.

The so-called soft skills are the prime differentiator between great leaders and mediocre ones in the coming years. Senior leaders are aware of this, and they lament the lack of proficiency they see in candidates. In a recent LinkedIn study, 89% of executives reported that it’s difficult to find people with soft skills. And virtually every soft skill—from conflict management to teamwork, communication skills to problem solving—is related to emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of, manage and express one’s own emotions. It’s also the ability to handle interpersonal relationships with wisdom and empathy. There are four aspects of emotional intelligence, also known as EQ. They are: self-awareness, self-management, other/social awareness, and relationship management.

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How to Build & Show Resilience as a Leader

Leaders don’t need to be resilient only in times of crisis; they need this every day. Consider that most of us experience disappointment and suffer failures every single day, in addition to coping with the history-making and world shaping events going on around us. For example, when:

  • The traffic light that turns yellow just as you approach it and you are already late for an appointment
  • Or the store doesn’t have an item in your size.
  • Or when you forget to hit “send” on that email and miss a deadline.

These are minor hiccups in the grand scheme of things. What leaders (and their team members) can often do better is apply the same coping skills we use to deal with the little things to bigger disappointments and failures.

You can begin to do this by noticing first what exactly you are thinking about a big disappointment and then redirecting those thoughts toward a growth mindset and productive actions.

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Get Better as a Leader Based on What You’re Doing NOW

“During a time like this, we’ll either get better as a result of what we choose to do as teams and organizations, or we’ll be diminished for what we fail to do.” – Patrick Lencioni

This quote rings incredibly true for so many of us working to keep our organizations afloat, both amid COVID-19 and in the wake of the terrible injustice that we witnessed so recently in Minnesota and Georgia, among other places. What we do in a time of crisis, in a time when everything feels so difficult–how we show up in business and in life–will profoundly impact where we are three months, six months, a year from now.

What we don’t want is for this cycle to repeat itself, again, 100 years later, as it already has.

We must take action.

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Consistency in Leadership Even in an Inconsistent Environment

There’s a limit to consistency in business today. Whether it’s because the markets are swinging wildly, the fate of the organization is uncertain or changes in technology mean the organization is shifting…change is in the air.

It’s the leader’s responsibility to balance consistency in being both adaptive and responsive in a crisis, making decisions and communicating information as needed. Consistency, or a lack thereof, is just one of the barriers to organizational change.

What matters most is looking at all the factors involved and making changes that are in the best interests of team members and the organization, while keeping an eye on the checkpoints and benchmarks that ensure business continuity.

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What 360 Feedback Looks Like in Your Leadership Journey

It’s rare that leaders get the feedback they need the most from their teams. Team members are reluctant to speak up, no matter how open the leader (you) say you are. Enter the formal 360 feedback process.

Think about the last time a direct report approached you and said, “I noticed you didn’t react when Janet started crying in the meeting. You may not be aware of this, but it made the rest of us uncomfortable because you seemed cold and uncaring. I think this is something I can help you with. Are you open to talking about this and may I make some suggestions?”

Subordinates rarely, if ever, will come to their managers to offer their observations and their help, especially when it comes to their manager’s behavior. Most managers say they want feedback in their team meetings, so they assume that if people have any actual feedback to offer they will share it. Unfortunately, declaring an open door policy does not guarantee anyone will walk through it.

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Why Humility in Leadership is so Essential

Humility is one of those leadership behaviors that is paramount to long term success. One can rise to become a leader without this quality, but he won’t necessarily continue to succeed without it.

I define humility in leadership two ways. One, modeling through our words and our actions the feminist perspective that all human beings are fundamentally equal and none should automatically be granted power over another on the basis of their inborn characteristics. Secondly, that we take full responsibility for our impact on others—including acknowledging and apologizing to them when we have made an error. When leaders do these two things consistently, they will show up as both more effective and as humble to others.

But why is humility important as a leader? Why do the work to ensure you’re humble? (Isn’t humility the characteristic of a weak person?)

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How to help your team members work on themselves

Leaders need to work on themselves and have a plan for development throughout their careers. That’s one hallmark of true leaders—their desire to continue to grow and develop.

But part of a leader’s responsibility is to facilitate growth in their team members as well, to encourage team members to grow professionally—into new roles and as part of a team.

Leading people to grow goes well beyond asking them to set goals and scheduling quarterly check ins. It requires a special kind of leader who is open to change, tolerant of some failures or missteps and ready to commit their time to support others.

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How to Work on Yourself While Also Leading Others

We’re forever toggling between different tasks, conversations and focuses. This is a challenge for our external work—what we are paid to do. But it’s even more so for our internal work, namely being mindful and exercising our emotional intelligence.

As leaders, we are charged with paying close attention to and developing other people at the same time as we are expected to be constantly self-aware and self-regulating—all while continuing our own growth. Developing this brand of bimodal vision isn’t easy and is even more difficult to carry out in times of stress and under pressure.

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Turn your vices into virtues & grow personally and professionally

As we head into a new year and new decade, you may be looking at your goals and personal vision to determine how the next year or 5 or 10 might look for you. I’d like to propose that we make 2020 and beyond about being bold and getting out of our comfort zone.

Many professionals today are focused on growing and continuous learning, but when was the last time you did something that you knew you should but it made you wildly uncomfortable? Something creative and out of character? Something you were truly nervous to do?

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Difficult teammate or intelligence agent? You decide

Often we look at challenging team members as people who annoy us—as people who enjoy rocking the boat or making other people’s work lives more difficult than they need to be just for the heck of it. They may ask a lot of questions, challenge organizational decisions and fixate or complain about details that seem minor in the context of the bigger picture.

It doesn’t matter if you’re part of the leadership team or an individual contributor, challenging team members tend to develop a negative reputation. The first instinct for most of us is to want to find a way to avoid, shush or redirect them.

But I want you to shift your perspective. I want you to look at those difficult team members as intelligence agents, people who are actually giving us information that we should be thankful for.

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