Leadership Remedies for Low Emotional Intelligence
Do you have a strong Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?
Take this short quiz to find out: (Answer honestly from your heart!)
- You know you are brilliant, yet you find yourself reacting with impatience and anger with others who just don’t get it. YES / NO
- You have noticed that others don’t seem to get your humor or your jokes or don’t seem so interested in your great stories. YES / NO
- Maybe your feedback to a teammate failed to come across the way you had intended. YES / NO
Have you answered YES to at least one or more of the above questions?
If so, as a leader at work, at home or in your community, wanting to advance onward and upward in your career, you are possibly suffering from low Emotional Intelligence.
For most people, EQ limits a person’s career and influence more than IQ.
What does it mean?
What indicates good emotional intelligence (EQ)?
EQ is really about being aware of and responding effectively to emotions—our own and those of others.
In many ways, good EQ is similar to the common courtesies that were emphasized more in previous generations. After all, the old saw about “counting to ten” when we felt anger was about as scientific as you can get.
We now know that the emotional part of the brain (the Amygdala – /əˈmigdələ/) reacts four times faster than our cognitive quarterback in the pre-frontal cortex. In simpler terms, learning to slow down our response to emotional situations can keep us out of trouble.
The Amygdala is part of the limbic system and is the source of our natural protective response for flight or fight. For many who train regularly for combat – military, law enforcement, athletes—tapping into this source of high energy for a crisis response helps performance. But away from the job, that same response can get you in trouble—hence the term “Amygdala Hijack.” But to some degree, all of us use and misuse this natural instinct to fight or flee—to dominate or withdraw.
So, the key to good emotional intelligence is awareness. Until we become aware of our emotions and predict where they will take us (Step #1), we are clueless as to how to manage them (Step #2); and that’s what we really want to do. Likewise, an awareness of the emotions of others (Step #3) helps us manage our response (Step #4) to facilitate the most effective interaction.
Let’s look at these four steps of emotional intelligence to get healthier as a leader:
#1. Recognize Your Own Emotions.
Awareness usually requires practice. You are in a meeting and Mark says something that you know is absolutely wrong— “how could anyone be that stupid,” you think. Your first instinct is to call him out and show him how wrong he is. But, you have been down that road before and know that will only embarrass Mark and ultimately make you look small. Besides, you may not even know all the facts that are behind his opinion. Fortunately, you recognize that you are angry and you have learned to coach yourself to hold back on your response. You slow it down and engage your cognitive quarterback to come up with a plan B.
#2. Manage Your Emotions.
You are a quick thinker and now your mind is running through options for an effective way of responding. Your goal is to respond with honor and respect because that’s one of your personal values. You remind yourself that Mark is a bright guy, too. Also, you have heard from your leadership coach that listening is a really good tool. One option you remember that might work is to say something like, “Gee Mark, I had not thought of it like that before. Can you explain the logic of how that would work?” Of course, tone of voice and body language are very important to pulling this off because they are two of your strongest communicators of emotions. Once Mark gives his explanation, more than likely you will see that he’s not stupid at all—just operating with a different perspective. But in any case, you have managed your emotions and maintained your decorum—signs of a good EQ.
#3. Recognize the Emotions of Others.
On the way back from the conference room, you run into Emily, one of your peers, who seems a bit down and overwhelmed. You are depending on her to deliver the data that you need for the next step of your project and the deadline is tomorrow. Your immediate fear is that it’s not going to happen. Now that you have been working to raise your EQ, you mentally push back on your fear and consider what your teammate is up against and how her confidence and energy are sagging. It doesn’t take an EQ genius to realize that putting a guilt trip on her is probably not a good idea, but what can you do?
#4. Manage the Emotions of Others.
Because you are not fear-motivated, you focus on encouraging Emily. After all, she does good work and what she needs right now is an emotional boost. So, you choose to show her some empathy and encouragement, telling her that you understand things are difficult right now and asking if there are ways that you and your team can help. You also offer to listen to her challenges and brainstorm with her on solutions. (By the way, this is one of the most helpful things you can do for an extrovert; they unusually need to talk to think effectively.) You close out by reminding her that she is a great teammate and that you have confidence in her judgment.
The Silent Strength of EQ
Having good EQ may sound somewhat soft, but it’s actually very powerful because it’s about being the most effective we can be. It begins with awareness—we can’t manage what we don’t recognize—and then it’s about managing our own emotions and our response to others. In the simplest terms, it’s about reading the situation and then acting in the most effective manner. It does get easier with practice, and it makes you the kind of leader that others want to follow. Try it and see for yourself.
Good leaders know who they are—their strengths, weaknesses, passions, talents, and values. And, developing leaders always starts with self-awareness.