Emotional Intelligence | A Leadership Differentiator (in other words, the stuff that leaders are really made of!)

EQ Refresh:

Emotional Intelligence, also known as EQ, has come into the forefront in recent years as a serious challenger to IQ –particularly in relation to how we function in the work environment.   In fact, it’s suggested that EQ is just as, if not more important than, IQ.  EQ is so core to my leadership philosophy, I feel compelled to provide a context for others who may be less familiar with its potential to shift their professional paradigm.

The essence of emotional intelligence is in having an interest to be and become more self-aware.  While IQ is certainly an important factor in job success, it is emotional intelligence that truly sets one apart from another and creates the growth for the individual and company.  Becoming self-aware requires us to look at the subconscious layers and patterns that drive our actions and reactions 85 percent of the time. I like to call these patterns our blind spots.  Once we are conscious of these blind spots, we can manage them, rather than have them manage us.

This shift does not occur overnight, and just like leadership development, achieving self-awareness is an iterative and continuous process.  It is a journey.   I speak from experience of having been engaged in this for more than 30 years in my role as CEO, wife, sibling, mother, colleague and friend. This affects how we occur in our entire life and in every experience we encounter with another human being. When you think about it, all we have in life is our experiences.  The way in which we relate in these situations affects how we live our lives. We can choose to walk through life blindly, or to focus on heightened self-awareness to enrich our lives.

As I speak about EQ, I liken it to our internal operating system - our GPS. It is first a process of being in the inquiry of how we “occur” to both ourselves and others in order to create effective relationships.  Secondly, it is about understanding our “triggers” and their origin, in an effort to be able to respond instead of react.  This exploration enables us to self-manage more effectively.  Both steps are critical for leaders who are seeking to grow other leaders within our organizations.

Our triggers are usually based in our fears and are our natural, automatic ways to respond when we feel threatened.  What happens, however, is that when triggered, we reset into a fight/flight/freeze reaction (also known as our amygdala response), which affects our physiological state.  The toxic stress hormone cortisol runs through our system, setting off the neural networks that create 1400 different physiological responses in our body.  If this is not a wakeup call, I am not sure what is.

Through EQ exploration, one aims to be able to press the “pause” button before jumping into the cauldron of emotions.  The pause allows us to bring our subconscious reaction to the conscious level, in order to consciously choose the appropriate response for the situation we are in.  The practices of mindfulness and meditation are some of the vital EQ tools that help you navigate and mitigate life’s more difficult tests.  [My own story has been recently published here.]

Leadership Opportunity:

Moving these concepts into the work environment, EQ all-stars make much better leaders and team members.    Self-awareness leads to social awareness and understanding how we “occur” to each other – leading to richer and more effective relationship management.  Easy access to technology has translated into some unhealthy habits in the workplace – (e.g. texting someone a few desks over).   In the age of Artificial Intelligence, the socialization aspects of our work environment will become even more essential – AI will not be able to emulate our interactions.   Showing up authentically at work, being aware of how we see each other, learning to listen and being open to different points of view other than our own, is what awareness is all about.  A new leadership paradigm is essential and will be a game-changer.  The truth? We are NOT always right, and I know that is so very hard to hear. The discipline around exploring our EQ is essential for leaders.  85 percent of every action we take is driven at a sub-conscious level.  Getting under the surface and understanding your own motivations and vulnerabilities is critical to understanding how you can influence and motivate others.  Leading without EQ is like driving a car with only 15 percent visibility.

Try this exercise.  Ask four people around you, “How do I occur to you? Do you feel I listen? What request do you have of me to make our relationship more effective?”

If you need some practice, join me for Unlocking the Mind in January of 2020.  There’s a world of EQ inside of you waiting to be harvested!  [Click here to hear from one of our participants in this workshop.]