The simple truth is that leadership is about people and relationships. And great leaders will rise above the crowd when they show up with emotional intelligence. It puts their character on full display.
Emotional intelligence in its most stripped down form means being an authentic person. Yet authenticity doesn't come natural. Sometimes it's easier to not deal with emotional matters at work, as confrontations can take up so much energy. Who likes drama?
But sweeping things under the rug will lead to drama, and more conflict.
If you really want to build capacity and learn to show up with your best authentic-self, it's important to deprogram habits and thinking that no longer serve you.
That reminds me of a movie line. Yoda, in the Empire Strikes Back, famously said, "You must unlearn what you have learned." Great advice.
How do emotionally intelligent leaders display authenticity and leverage that strength for business? Seven ways...
1. They show up with their true selves.
What does that mean? Sometimes the tendency is to hide, withdraw, stonewall, or put on a mask. And that mask hides who we truly are; maybe through how we order people around, or how we forcefully command attention with a false charisma.
Authenticity is showing up with your best self. It's leading with your mind and your heart. You show up with:
• Emotional honesty
• A great attitude
• An openness to feedback
• A self-awareness of not only your feelings, but of those of others in your sphere of influence.
2. They treat themselves (and others) as human beings.
Great leaders display authenticity by making room daily for laughter and joy, while accepting that they're not perfect. When they make mistakes, they will admit them.
And when employees make mistakes, it's safe for them to risk being open enough to say, "Hey boss, I messed up." They can say this due to the high levels of trust built over time with those healthy bosses.
3. They approach conflict with great courage.
Authentic leaders will avoid creating distance, being silent, or stone-walling--all passive-aggressive ways to deal with conflict. They are naturally assertive and speak up when they have to.
Now, don't confuse "speaking up" with saying whatever comes to their mind. That just lacks emotional intelligence. And I'm not saying that they speak up to run over people with positional authority.
What they do is courageously run toward the eye of the storm because they know that cutting through a conflict to resolve a problem with respect, dignity, and listening to understand is easier than the negative consequences of running away from a conflict.
4. They speak their truth.
They don't say things to sugarcoat, to try to please others. Or to try to look good in front of their peers.
They don't betray themselves or others by using words or making decisions that are not aligned with who they are.
It's highly unlikely that you will hear such a leader being talked about around water coolers on Monday morning for "throwing someone under the bus."
So these leaders speak clearly, honestly, and with integrity. That's why they usually have great reputations.
5. They are teachable.
Leaders in a healthy organization gladly accept the role of a learner, because they know it will make them better. They know that each person has something important to teach them.
The truth is that good leaders don't always know what is needed and what to do--so they are willing to listen before making suggestions. They ask questions, and are sincerely interested in the answers.
6. They listen to understand.
I mentioned this earlier: Effective communication isn't just about talking; it is also the ability to listen and understand what's happening on the other side of the fence.
In today's virtually connected world that relies on technology rather than face-to-face interactions, it's even more important to be able to know the cues on the other side that you would normally get eyeball-to-eyeball. But it goes way beyond that.
Authentic listeners don't dominate the conversation by talking only about themselves or the task at hand.
So in meetings or one-on-ones, they listen and reflect back what they heard to clarify ("What I hear you saying is ..."), and they ask questions to probe the other person's feelings or opinions on the topic of conversation.
That can be as simple as: "Tell me how you feel about this."
Authentic listeners are careful not to talk over someone's point. That just shows impatience on their part, and it may cause the other person to lose interest in the conversation, or shut down.
7. They are accessible.
Great leaders, particularly during hard times, are out in front of the organization sharing plans for the future. They don't hide behind closed doors or conveniently delegate important communication needs to others.
Employees will look to leaders for information, clear expectations, and status of what's going on when the chips are down. Great leaders are especially adept at "walking their four corners."
In what ways do you show up with your best authentic-self?