4 Emotional Intelligence Skills to Transform Your Leadership Style
By Steven Stein, Ph.D.
In today’s work settings, many of the old-style hierarchical and authoritarian styles of leadership have become obsolete. We’ve witnessed significant strides in replacing rewards-punishment “transactional” management styles — that have mostly proven unproductive — with “transformative styles” in which organizational leaders inspire their teams to achieve a collective purpose.
And yet we’re still in the transition zone where we need more leaders equipped with the skills that combine interpersonal abilities, including empathy and trust, with the capacity to model creative problem solving when faced with tough situations. We refer to this skill set as Emotional Intelligence, or EI. The awareness that EI is an important job skill — in some cases even surpassing technical ability — has grown in recent years.
In simple terms, EI is the ability to identify and manage emotional information in oneself and in others. But, we continue to experience a scarcity of this new brand of leadership talent. According to a global survey by Deloitte, leadership was rated the most urgent concern when considering gaps in workforce readiness.
Why haven’t we done a better job of cultivating emerging leaders? One reason is that we continue to mistakenly believe good technical or sales skills translate to good management skills. The thinking seems to be: if they excel at analyzing, fixing, selling and so on, then they can likely lead others to excel as well. But these skills and competencies have little to do with being a good leader.
Another erroneous standard of leadership talent is mistakenly assuming that high IQ is a predictor of leadership strength. While it’s likely that leaders have higher IQs than followers, the qualities that make up strong leaders go far beyond one’s cognitive intelligence.
Finally, choosing leaders based on personality remains widespread. Characteristics such as aggressiveness and extroversion, that tend to stand out in job candidates, don’t always correlate with self-awareness, flexibility and influencing others. The forceful leaders may be good at giving orders, but that doesn’t always translate into inspiring subordinates into action.
The traits that new bodies of research confirm as the most effective in improving workplace morale — and the bottom line — directly relate to qualities associated with EI. After gleaning results from the largest database of EI test scores in the world, researchers have identified four pillars of EI that form the foundation of competencies needed to buttress today’s business world for success now and into the future.
The good news is that EI traits can be cultivated and improved. Practice these four pillars of EI to transform your personal and organizational leadership style:
- Express authenticity on every level.Acting without integrity can be the kiss of death in today’s world. Today’s best leaders must be viewed as credible, fair and “real.” Bombastic, arrogant and dominating people are out. For today’s leaders, humility is a strength. People will respect you more and go the extra mile if they think you are real.
- Coach others to realize their full potential.Today’s more equitable workplaces run on collaboration and mentoring, not policing. The best leaders coach their teams through tactics as simple as “management by walking around” and one-on-one meetings where they listen to employees’ concerns, offer feedback and guidance and take responsibility for removing any roadblocks.
- Communicate the organization’s mission in a way that inspires employees, suppliers and customers.More and more companies are realizing they are not in business just to make money or produce a product. Developing a sense of higher purpose (for example, Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”) heightens engagement and motivation for employees and other stakeholders, which helps attract and retain the right people. Insightful leaders communicate a purpose, meaning and vision, and express a hopeful view of the future.
- Encourage innovation and risk-taking.More success will accrue to organizations that encourage their employees to think creatively and champion new ideas. That doesn’t mean everyone gets their own R&D budget, but it does require that leaders give their people more autonomy and license to explore changing customer needs and provide a fair, safe and encouraging hearing when employees propose new ideas. They also need to be understanding when new, risky ideas don’t succeed. Innovative leaders spur imaginative and autonomous thinking and see challenges as learning opportunities.
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Steven Stein, Ph.D., is a leading expert on psychological assessment and emotional intelligence. He is the founder and CEO of Multi-Health Systems (MHS), a leading publisher of scientifically validated assessments. Dr. Steven Stein is the author and coauthor of several books on emotional intelligence, including his new book, The EQ Leader: Instilling Passion, Creating Shared Goals, and Building Meaningful Organizations through Emotional Intelligence (Wiley, May 1, 2017), and the international best-seller, The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success. He has consulted for military and government agencies, corporations and professional sports teams. Dr. Stein has also consulted on numerous reality TV shows, providing psychological expertise and candidate screening. He has appeared on more than 100 TV and radio shows throughout North America. For more information, visit drstevenstein.com
1. Project/Program managers are in the business of promises.
• A common misconception with project managers is that they are responsible for organizing tasks and resources.
• In fact, what project/program managers are really responsible for is making and keeping promises to their customers.
• To keep these promises, they must be able to do the following:
o Be an effective customer for the performance of their team members
o Make clear requests of their team members
o Get promises from their team members
o Assess the trustworthiness of those promises
o Hold their team members accountable to the promises they make
2. Project plans are a tool for trust, not tasks
• A plan that deconstructs tasks is a good start for determining if the project manager knows what it will take to deliver on a promise for a customer
• Without a commitment from the members of the team to deliver on their component promises, the project manager cannot make trustworthy promises
• The task doesn’t make the project, it simply indicates if the project manager understands the pieces
• The thing that makes the project is the commitment of the people working on the tasks to deliver on the promises they are making
3. Have leadership conversations to coordinate action
• The only way to ensure that promises are made and kept is to have a leadership conversation
• Leadership conversations are dialogues that occur between 2 or more people (they can be done remotely via teleconference or video)
• Among other things, leadership conversations
o Generate a shared purpose, mission, and values
o Coordinate action among team members
o Generate commitment
o Understand capacity
o Clarify roles and authority
o Proactively deal with breakdowns
4. You can’t assign a team, it can only be formed by the commitments of the people who comprise it
• A group of people assigned to work together is a “work group.” They may work in proximity of each other, but they do not behave as a team.
• To work as a team, people must commit to a shared purpose, to allocate responsibility and authority, and coordinate action to fulfill a shared promise to satisfy a customer.
• Fractionalized resources often fail. They generally fail because they are working on multiple, simultaneous tasks but not making commitments to satisfy anyone
Many smart business leaders tend to look at the world through lenses that skew or limit their perspective, causing them to act on autopilot. When those lenses come off–accidentally or intentionally–these leaders can gain a broader perspective and make better, wiser decisions.
The problem is, it’s not easy for smart leaders to shift their perspective, because it’s all they know. Sometimes, to get out of their comfort zone and evolve to the next level, they need to do something counter-intuitive: they need to take off their “smart glasses.”
CEO coach and adviser Prasad Kaipa has worked with hundreds of C-level executives globally to help them cultivate wise leadership skills. He Says differentiating between smart and wise perspectives is the first step.