For years our IQ, “intelligence quotient”, determined our cognitive abilities to learn and understand and to be successful. However due to the work initiated by Daniel Goleman and others in the 1990’s we have come to realize there’s another major component to our success….Emotional Intelligence. Building Emotional Intelligence is vital for leadership at at every level.
Emotional Intelligence, or EQ is the “other kind of smart.” Emotional Intelligence is defined as “the measure of an individual’s abilities to recognize and manage their emotions”, and “to manage the emotions of other people, both individually and in groups”.
I don’t think it took me very long at all to recognize that emotions played a huge role in leadership. In fact, I think I was aware of it before I was really asked to be a leader. Most of my growing up, I’ve observed what I liked and didn’t like in the leaders I followed. I watched my mom and dad lead. They seemed steady and unshakeable, even when they had others come at them. Or when they were dealing with stress at their jobs. They never seemed to get too rattled by it.
In contrast to them, I had teachers and coaches and pastors while growing up that had lots of talent but seemed to break down emotionally. Some either shut down, or lashed out in anger. That was something that indicated to me that they couldn't handle pressure like I saw my mom and dad and my Grandpa - handle pressure.
The difference I believe was the level of their emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman writes about 5 competences in emotional intelligence.
The Competency of "Emotional Awareness"
Goleman stresses the need for leaders to focus on their emotions as “appropriate or inappropriate”. For example one of the most prevalent emotions of the day is “anger”, one most people think of as negative but viewing it this way cuts short our understanding of emotional intelligence. “Emotional Awareness” forces us to recognize the “why” behind the act of our anger. I find it interesting that the Bible says, be angry and sin not. In other words it is possible to be angry and to not be wrong. Jesus got angry and we know He never sinned.
When I first started leading I viewed all anger as negative and bad and so I would dismiss it totally. Now, I see anger, and emotions for that matter, as signposts along a highway. They give me an indication as to where I am as a leader or where my team is. I have discovered that conflict — and anger in particular — is simply the space between what I expect and what I am currently experiencing. If I am not experiencing what I expected, either from myself or from one of my team or people in the church, then there is a conflict within me. The greater the space between the two, the greater the conflict — the greater the emotion.
It’s difficult to analyze the difference between your expectations and what you are experiencing too deep on the spot, but you have to be honest with what your expectations were. Then I have found it helpful to define the “space between” — that’s emotional awareness — as Goleman describes. It’s good practice because it will force me to either change my expectations or to change the outcomes of what I am experiencing.
While the temptation will be to look at this is a compromise, that is not necessarily true. It’s more often about communication as a leader, mainly being more clear with defining what your expectations are to eliminate the space between. It’s good, because it makes all of us better, as a leader and as a team.
So for example; when I find myself frustrated or angry with a member of my team or with an entire team, I need to investigate and define what my expectations were and where what they are doing is falling short of that expectation. Then I need to ask myself whether I communicated clear enough with the team what I expected — most of the time, to be honest — I have not been clear enough. Then I change and make sure I am more clear with my expectations. If I have been clear, then they are held accountable for falling short of those expectations.
The Competency of "Self-Regulation"
Another of the 5 competencies that Goleman discusses is the competency of “Self-regulation”. This takes managing our emotions from “awareness” to the next logical step. He says those who manage their emotions don’t make impulsive, careless decisions. They are consequently thoughtful and comfortable with change and with integrity.
I think one of the best ways to “self-regulate” is to not regulate yourself by yourself. I don't know about you, but I am the best salesman when it comes to myself. I can justify anything and talk myself into anything. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, says that there is safety in a multitude of counsellors. He is so right. Surround yourself with wise counsellors and they help you make the best decision for yourself and the organization.
Last week on the podcast, I mentioned waiting 24 hours before responding to a volatile situation. The difference between making quick decisions for the short term and making careful decisions for the long term is often the preparation.
The majority of my decisions are made with the long term in mind. Very rarely will I make a move that is only short term in nature. Sometimes, you have to make quick decisions, but it is the preparation before the decision that counts. Solomon said the wise see trouble coming and avoid it. As a leader, you need to always be looking ahead and very little should surprise you and require you to make a rash decision.
Goleman says the higher our emotional intelligence, the better we manage stress. Stress comes with the territory when you’re a leader. Identify what drains you and then avoid them. I have identified a number of things that regularly emotionally drain me.
Wasting time feeling sorry for myself. You don’t see mentally strong people feeling sorry for their circumstances or dwelling on the way they’ve been mistreated. Mentally strong people have learned to take responsibility for their actions and outcomes. They have an inherent understanding of the fact that frequently life is not fair. They are able to emerge from trying circumstances with self-awareness and gratitude for the lessons learned.
Giving away my power to others. Mentally strong people avoid giving others the power to make them feel inferior or bad. Recognize and understand that you are in control of your actions and emotions. Know that your strength is in your ability to manage the way you respond.
Wasting energy on things I can’t control. Mentally strong people don’t complain (much) about bad traffic, lost luggage, or especially other people. Mentally strong people recognize that all of these factors are generally beyond their control. In a bad situation, they recognize that the one thing they can always control is their own response and attitude, and they use these attributes well.
Worrying too much about pleasing others. A mentally strong person strives to be kind and fair and to please others where appropriate, but they are unafraid to speak up. They are able to withstand the possibility that someone will get upset. Mentally strong people navigate the situation, and wherever possible, they do so with grace. This is where the tone in which we speak is as important as our words.
There is a thin line leaders must walk in the “back and forth" between leading confidently and relating to followers who are struggling with change leaders have to make. You have to honestly ask yourself internally if you are making decision to make people happy or for the betterment of the organization. Only you as a leader truly know the answer to that question in your heart.
Resenting other people’s successes. It takes strength of character to feel genuine joy and excitement for other people’s success. Mentally strong people have this ability. They don’t become jealous or resentful when others succeed (although they may take close notes on what the individual did well). They are willing to work hard for their own chance at success, without relying on shortcuts.
Giving up after failure. I’ve seen failure drain a lot of people. Some were so sidetracked by their failure, they purposed never to try anything in the future. You have to focus on what you have learned and what you will need to do differently next time. Every failure is a chance to improve. Mentally strong people are willing to fail again and again, if necessary, as long as the learning experience from every “failure” can bring them closer to their ultimate goals. This require focusing forward.
Feelings of entitlement.
A very controversial one in some groups but avoiding the feeling that the world owes me something is vital. When new leaders look at the success of mature leaders, they usually can’t see what it took to reach that level of success. The process of working to succeed never ends.
Mentally strong people enter the world prepared to work and succeed on their own merits at every stage of the game. Entitlement is so dangerous for a leader and always leads to frustration and loss. People won’t respect and follow an entitled leader for very long.
Practice Reflective Thinking
I think as leaders we all need to practice reflective thinking and be very aware of what is draining us and our ability to emotionally lead. If we are not aware, we could be causing enormous amounts of damage to our teams and organization without being aware. And there is no worse place for a leader to be. The church needs world class leaders who have a strong EQ because there is too much at stake.