Emotional intelligence is kind of a popular thing these days and it’s been written about a lot. It is a critical component of being a leader and developing as a leader, but an important concept for life in general as well. Emotional Intelligence is made up of many things that stem from:
It's all about knowing your strengths and challenges and how you contribute to the outcomes of different situations.
We know that anyone can develop emotional intelligence. From start-to-finish during our year-long LEAP Leadership Acceleration Program, we track the change in emotional intelligence indicators; we absolutely see positive change in participants during their 12-month leadership development journey—upwards of 30% on average. In a nutshell, once a person gets feedback and becomes aware of the concepts around emotional intelligence, they learn to be aware of their behavior and their impact on their social environment. When they learn the tools for coping and regulating, they really can control their behavior and act with a higher level of emotional intelligence.
As an example, a couple of years ago we had a General Manager at a prestigious restaurant, who was a great employee—sharp, organized, great at his job, but he could not control his outbursts, he could not regulate he impulse when he became upset or frustrated. In this case, the person was very self-aware--the situation was quickly eroding his confidence as a leader and he could feel it. He knew there was a problem, he just couldn’t regulate. Through LEAP, with feedback, skill building, reflection, help from peers, and guidance from his Coach, by the end of the year we saw a 60% positive change in indicators for emotional intelligence and leadership confidence and competence. Backing this up, his sponsor and boss reported a visible and significant improvement in his leadership, the team he managed, and the work environment in general.
So, absolutely we can develop emotional intelligence. It comes down to first understanding “who I am at my core, at my best most natural self?” Then, “how do others see me in the work environment?” And from there, reducing the blind spots through reflection and sharing openly with trusted relationships.
It is important to note that the process of developing emotional intelligence takes time. It’s like working out at the gym; results don’t happen overnight. Throughout the leadership development process, the emotional intelligence muscles are being built overtime with the help of a coach, peers, and the tools and curriculum provided in the program.
How does a leader go about getting honest feedback?
Many leaders believe, “if I just ask for feedback, people will give it to me”. While I wish that were true, unfortunately all humans, being what we are, if you hold a position over me, bottom line is, I don’t know that if I were to be completely honest with you, “are you going to fire me or give me crappy work or a crappy schedule?” We tend to hold back being truly honest even when offered the opportunity to give real-time immediate, face-to-face, feedback.
Our LEAP members find that our 360 Survey is one of the most valuable benefits to them in terms of opening their eyes and helping them get started on their leadership journey. The feedback helps them reduce blind spots and helps them really understand how others are seeing them. Then the question becomes “what do I do with this feedback?” and that’s where the coaching, peer cohort, and skill building come into play—real leadership development requires all of these components.
Looking for a leadership cohort in your area? Find out more about LEAP!
We’ve tracked the development of emotional intelligence in leaders over many years working with executives, managers and aspiring leaders to increase their confidence and competence. We have metrics that show the change in emotional intelligence level from the start of the leadership development journey to the end, one year later. Based on this, we've identified 6 key indicators of lacking emotional intelligence:
#1 Very limited self-awareness, which really goes back to a lack of feedback. If employees are irritated, act annoyed, don’t respond to what you want them to do, have no idea as to why you’re asking them to do things, it could be something that you’re completely blind to, a particular behavior or a mannerism that you are completely unaware of, you have no self-awareness and also you have no feedback, therefore, you’re lacking that self-awareness.
#2 Having perfectionistic tendencies, being hyper-critical of others, and having unrealistic expectations that no one around you can live up to which deflates the morale of team-members.
#3 Defensive when accepting feedback. When people attempt to give the feedback, the recipient doesn’t see it as a gift, they see it as criticism and respond either defensively or angrily when others attempt to give them feedback.
#4 Inability to manage emotional impulses is another area or sign of lacking emotional intelligence. People who can’t quite control what their reactions are, become victims to their emotional impulses, whether its anger or depression or whatever it might be that they don’t have the ability to recognize that emotion and bounce back quickly or manage it effectively in the moment.
#5 Lack of accountability and not taking ownership for performance situations like lack of results in the organization or when something goes wrong on a project.
#6 Being inflexible, not just in behavior, but inflexible in one’s thinking and inability to adapt to changing environments and changing situations and other people.
Leadership can be lonely.
We're all familiar with the phrase "it's lonely at the top" but the isolation of leadership can extend through all areas of the organization--wherever people are in a position of authority. Whether you're at the very top or somewhere in the middle, when you are placed in a position of authority, you need to be the boss and sometimes you can’t really problem solve or talk through issues you’re having with your employees, team, or management team.
For example, let's say you have an employee that reacts in a very emotional way every time you give them feedback—who do you talk to about this? You can’t talk to other employees. You don’t necessarily want to expose the behavior to upper management and tarnish the perception of this employee. You don’t want to take it home. It’s sensitive and you want to respect the privacy of the employee, honor their trust, and help them overcome their challenges. But how? Without the ability to discuss and collaborate with others, self-doubt can creep in and really begin to affect your ability to lead well, ultimately negatively impacting the results of the organization.
How can a leader avoid the very natural isolation of being in a position of authority without creating division and separation?
We really encourage leaders to find a peer group. CEO’s and senior leadership often have an easier time with this because there are so many CXO focused groups and networks already available. For the mid-level manager, this can be really tough.
This is why our leadership acceleration program is based on a peer cohort group; we want our leaders to start with a trusted peer group where they can bring their issues and not feel so isolated. The peer-cohort is a group of like-minded people to talk to, who are also growing and developing themselves as leaders. Whether it’s inside your organization or not, you have a group of peers to talk about real-world things confidentially. The group will help you work through “how do I best handle these situations?” which can really be helpful for eliminating that isolation and also gives you the confidence to address things head on.
Looking for a leadership cohort in your area? Find out more about LEAP!
Lynda Silsbee is Founder and President of the Alliance for Leadership Acceleration. She has spent more than 30 years creating and leading high performance teams. Along with the other LEAP Certified Coaches, she reports that helping managers make the LEAP to leader is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her work.