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Guest blog: Why successful leaders put intelligence and emotion together

We are excited to welcome leadership coach, Kathy Archer, back to the Volunteer Alberta blog! This is the first of a two-part series on leadership and emotional intelligence.

You need to be smart to be a leader. You need to have training, education and intelligence to be successful.

If you are a leader, that’s probably what you believe. In fact, many leaders feel imposter-like because they don’t have the proper credentials. Moving up the career ladder is often a result of doing great in a frontline position. We then find ourselves in management without the “right” qualifications to be there. This lack of credentials leaves us worried we will be exposed for the frauds we feel we are.

While you need a baseline level of both intellect and training, leadership is much more than your IQ level or the letters after your name. One of the key indicators of a successful leader is their level of Emotional Intelligence (EI). In fact, EI is a higher predictor of a leader’s success than IQ. Let me explain.

Emotional intelligence (EI) and managing your emotions as a leader

Leaders need to have the extraordinary ability to manage their emotions. Leadership is a tough gig! It can be stressful and demanding. In a leadership position, you are juggling a constant stream of interruptions, reports, meetings and people. You think on your feet, deal with criticism and, at times, you must communicate hard messages.

But here’s the thing, when everything is chaotic in the organization, effective leaders bring a sense of calm and control. As teams get bogged down, an effective leader recharges everyone with inspiration, motivation and energy. When tension rises between staff members, an effective leader takes on those charged conversations to resolve issues. The leader’s emotional stability propels successful organizations forward.

For a leader to be all these things, they much have a high degree of EI. Emotional Intelligence, coined by Daniel Goleman, is the ability to both recognize and manage your emotions.

Notice I said manage emotions, not suppress them, turn them off, or tune them out. EI is not about eliminating emotions; it’s about tuning in to them- recognizing them for what they are and using them to guide future behavior.

Emotional intelligence in practice

Take, for example, experiencing fear in the middle of a meeting after being asked a question. Fear puts us on alert, releases adrenaline into our body, and prepares us to fight, flee, or freeze.

Here is where EI kicks in. An emotionally aware leader will notice physical sensations in their body, like belly tightening, heart racing, and hand clenching. They will also take note of the subsequent feelings of anxiety, shame, or frustration.

Rather than reacting by sending a biting comment back, ending the meeting quickly, or backing down, the leader with increased EI will look at their inner dialogue. By becoming conscious of what they are telling themselves about this situation, they can decide if the thought is accurate and helpful or if it needs to be changed.

When a leader does this inner work, they can react rationally. Instead of the fight, flee, or freeze reaction, the leader with EI may respond by saying, “That’s a great question, and I don’t have the answer to it currently. I will find out and get back you by Friday.” They haven’t lost their sense of inner power. In fact, they’ve regained their inner power.

In next week’s article, you will learn how to further develop emotional intelligence by accessing your Inner Guidance System (IGS).

Leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead. In Kathy Archer’s online courses and leadership coaching sessions, she teaches leaders the inner and outer tools to restore their lost confidence so they can move from surviving to thriving in both leadership and life.

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