Leaders are the type of people that others willingly follow.
Leadership has very little to do with company organization. Being a manager or supervisor over other people does not make someone a leader. A leader is someone who leads. A leader is someone who is followed.
Managers often seek to be good leaders, and some managers are exceptional leaders. If you want to take most of the work and frustration out of being a manager, become a good leader. Now, that’s easier said than done, so I’m going to give you some insight into what good leaders have that most of us don’t.
The answer is emotional intelligence.
I’m not talking about book smarts or IQ. Emotional intelligence is something completely different. And unlike an high IQ (which you either have, or you don’t) emotional intelligence can be learned. It can be developed and improved. That’s good news, especially if you’re like me.
So what is emotional intelligence?
Daniel Goleman (who is a well-known researcher to people in the behavioral science world) defined it as “the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.”
In short, it’s our ability to understand what we feel and what other people feel, and then using those emotions to be productive. It’s part of Stephen R. Covey’s first habit of highly effective people, which is to be proactive instead of reactive. It means taking charge of your emotions and choosing how to act instead of letting your emotions determine how you react.
In 1995, Daniel Goleman did a study where he analyzed the competency models of 188 companies. These competencies are the things that these companies determine to be most important for employees’ success. He then categorized these competencies into one of three categories: Emotional Intelligence (EI), Cognitive Intelligence (IQ), and Technical Skills. In this study, he found that emotional intelligence was twice as important as the other two categories in determining how well an employee will succeed. And it gets even more important at higher levels of management.
Why do you think that is?
It’s because successful managers are also effective leaders.
In Goleman’s theory of emotional intelligence, known as the EI Theory of Performance, there are four categories or dimensions of emotional intelligence. They are as follows.
- Self Awareness—Simply put, this is your ability to understand what you’re feeling right when you start feeling it. When you have strong self awareness, you don’t overly criticize yourself, but you don’t deny faults. You are confident, but not arrogant, and you are willing and open to learning new things even when they challenge what you already believe.
- Self Management—This is where you take self awareness to the next level. It’s your ability to manage your emotions. Because you understand what you feel, when you feel it, you can effectively interact with others without being overbearing or timid.
- Social Awareness—This is also known as empathy. It’s your ability to understand other people’s emotions. If you have strong social awareness, you perceive things that others often miss. You understand other people and how they think and feel, allowing you to be more accepting of differences.
- Relationship Management—This is where it all comes together. Having strong social awareness makes it easier to connect with other people. People follow you, not because of coercion, but because of genuine respect and trust. People with a strong ability for relationship management make excellent leaders.
This can be seen as a continuum. And by that I mean that you can develop high emotional intelligence by advancing from number one to number four. But this isn’t always how it goes. Some people are naturally good at social awareness, but their self awareness is lacking. When it comes down to it, being a really effective leader requires all four of these dimensions of emotional intelligence.
So here’s what I’m going to challenge you to do.
Read through these four descriptions again, and then take a long look in the figurative mirror.
Think about which of these four areas you are already best at. Why do you feel like you’re good at it?
Now, shift your focus to the area where you think you have the most room to improve. Why do you feel like you’re not as good at this one? How do you think that improving this area of your emotional intelligence will make you a better leader?
Write these down and make some goals for improvement. It’s not easy to develop emotional intelligence. It takes a lot of focus and a whole lot of trial and error. You will fall short of your own expectations time and time again.
But you’ll improve.
And before you know it other people will start to notice the change, and you will start to notice how much nicer people seem. Because an interesting thing will start to happen. As people notice (usually subconsciously) that you are aware of them and their feelings, they will start to open up. They will start to cooperate more. And they’ll do it because they respect you, and because they trust you. All because they feel like you understand them.
So develop your emotional intelligence. If you do, you’ll be amazed at how naturally people will begin to follow, because you will truly begin to lead.