Like so many people in the United States--and around the world--I truly admire Oprah Winfrey. She came from nothing and built a media empire. From creating bestsellers with her trusted recommendations and giving away free versions of her favorite things to a lifetime spent doing humanitarian work, Oprah really knows how to wield her influence to empower others.
But that's not actually the most impressive thing about her. As you might have noticed, a lot has been written about emotional intelligence recently. If you want to see someone whose EQ (emotional quotient, rather than intelligence quotient, or IQ) is worth emulating, look no further than Oprah.
Emerging entrepreneurs and established business owners alike would be wise to sharpen their own EQ; according to the World Economic Forum's report, "The Future of Jobs," emotional intelligence will be one of the top 10 job skills by 2020.
How Oprah Embodies Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is defined by four attributes: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. If we examine Oprah relative to those attributes, we'll find that she hits those marks across the board.
She's certainly a prime example of someone who thrives on being self-aware and self-expressive with a powerful presence. A lifelong learner, she pushes her own boundaries to expand both her inner life and her external business activities.
Outwardly, she's always politically correct and gives fully and genuinely. Her relationships are solid. She's had the same people working in her organization, the same life partner, and the same best friend for decades. It's a high level of emotional intelligence that has led Oprah to such incredible success and has helped her hone an uncanny ability to inspire others.
Joie Seldon--a leading authority and advocate of emotional intelligence as it relates to leadership at work--has this to say about EQ: "One of the most powerful aspects of emotional intelligence is the ability to deal with situations as they are happening in ways that positively impact the outcome of your interactions while minimizing the stress you experience."
That's Oprah in a nutshell--and it can be you, too, with a little focus on your own EQ.
Boosting Your EQ
As you start your company, the need for emotional intelligence is obvious. The best way to deal with stressors in your professional or personal life is to assess and grow your EQ. Here are three ways to do so:
1. Know yourself and trust your gut. Start with an awareness of your own emotional state, including how balanced you believe you are and how comfortable you are expressing yourself. As you become more aware of your emotions and how you respond to triggers, you're better able to trust your internal guidance to make good decisions.
Recently, I found myself in a situation that got heated and threatened to escalate out of control. Realizing my own emotions were also spinning out, I suggested that the group take a break. When we returned, cooler heads prevailed, and I was able to facilitate a conversation that led the team members involved to higher ground, where they came to an agreement.
Without the self-awareness to recognize rising stress levels, we might have continued pushing ahead--to the detriment of everyone involved.
2. Manage yourself. Have you felt yourself getting agitated when there are perceived limits, such as in crowded stores, airports, stadiums, or full parking lots? These triggers are a key to how you will behave in other stressful situations, so pay attention.
Recently, I was next in line for a spot in the parking lot of a popular trail where I hike (with limited parking spaces). Someone cut in front of me very aggressively and nabbed the spot. Rather than allow this to disrupt my mood, I waited for another spot to open up, which happened almost immediately. To manage your stress, you must choose your battles wisely!
Get a sense of how you react to stressful situations, surroundings, and people. If you stay conscious of your emotions, you can pause and reflect before reacting. As you're able to self-regulate and manage your emotions, your self-management and leadership grow.
3. Demonstrate empathy for others. Be sensitive to others' emotions, but do not take them on--that way, you can choose how to engage with them under different circumstances.
Recently, a colleague of mine was upset because a competitor had won a bid to secure a coveted client. Rather than dismiss her or offer platitudes, I was able to ask powerful questions and help her reframe the situation so she could see the client may not have been good for her.
When dealing with others' emotions, put yourself in their shoes and pause to reflect on what you can do to be most helpful in any given situation. As your powers of empathy grow, you'll notice a higher degree of trust, rapport, mutual respect, and willingness to collaborate build around you.
Oprah has it figured out. I can't guarantee that you'll be as rich and famous as she is as you develop your emotional intelligence. But I can promise that you'll find better balance and stability for yourself, which is really the ultimate success in life.