Flexing Your Leadership EQ

Being the boss is a good thing, or as Mel Brooks said in his movie, “History of the World”: “It’s good to be the king.” But leadership is a multifaceted paradigm, requiring one to juggle multiple hats. In one moment, you are reporting to your boss and needing to relate on his or her level, and next moment, you are talking with subordinates about a conflict they are having that, in your view, seems akin to high school pettiness.Most managers obtained their positions for doing their job well: highest sales numbers, best customer care, most knowledgeable technician. Others obtained their positions through tenure. Either way, having the technical and professional skills or tenure to do a job well does not equate to possessing the people skills to lead effectively.About 10 to 15 percent of the general population are natural-born leaders. They possess key personality traits, such as being able to see the big picture, competitiveness and the ability to assess situations then make decisions quickly. They’re results-driven and are confident.However, natural-born leaders can lack “people skills,” such as active listening, the ability to connect with others, expressing compassion and empathy or acting with diplomacy.Whether you were born a natural leader or not, being in a leadership position requires the ability to communicate effectively for both internal and external relationship building, one-on-one and in groups.Your emotional quotientUnfortunately, many natural leaders can be narrow-minded about broadening their people skills. They tend to view people who don’t respond to their style of leadership as weak and in need of “hand-holding.” They expect subordinates to execute initiatives and reach goals with zest and obedience. When they don’t get the answers, results and loyalty they expect, they call in the consultants and say, “Fix them. Make them produce.”Pity the consultant who has to go in through the back door to deliver the news, “You’re part of the problem. You need to stretch your E.Q.”What’s an EQ? Everyone knows about an IQ: intelligence quotient. But we also have an EQ: emotional quotient. A key component of EQ includes self-awareness, having insight into how one’s own actions affect the people around us. EQ involves rational thinking, the ability to empathize, see things from other’s points of view and connect with social deftness.Many successful people in various fields have achieved their stature largely on EQ alone. Possessing the ability to genuinely connect with others can be helpful in many venues, from the political arena to the boardroom.It has been my experience that natural leaders can often be the most stubborn when it comes to the willingness to self-reflect and change their behaviors. Since leaders naturally have confidence in themselves, asking them to alter their reactions and actions is like asking a tiger to change its stripes.Many natural-born leaders possess many good qualities, but approachability may not be one of them. Who of us would vote for a political candidate who didn’t seem approachable at one of our town meetings? We would more than likely come out of our exchange with a candidate who didn’t listen to us and didn’t seem to care with a highly negative opinion of the person.Approachability is a very desirable attribute for relationship-building, so if you are a leader, you want to assess if you’re truly “approachable.” Does your staff feel they can come to you with problems, opinions, suggestions and even objections?In addition, approachability is dependent on your ability to connect with your staff, making small talk, finding out what their interests are, giving praise and recognition, listening and understanding.This does not mean giving up all the attributes that you believe make you an effective leader, but rather broadening your emotional scope to include friendly exchanges, openness to hearing others out in meetings, and so on.Many leaders give lip service to these “soft skills,” but behind closed doors, they act the same as always, still expecting results and loyalty. So let me speak to the bottom line: you get more with honey than vinegar. When leaders exhibit compassion, praise, diplomacy, and active listening, they earn the loyalty and respect of their subordinates, and happy employees equate to higher productivity, which equates to higher profits.Find me a company that has lost money because their employees felt heard and respected.For individuals looking for help with expanding their EQ, executive and life coaches are a good resource. For groups such as board members or management teams seeking to examine their EQ, professional trainers and coaches can be helpful. Just don’t call in the consultants unless you’re ready to look in the mirror.Heidi Page is owner of Evolve Counseling & Training LLC and co-owner of Platinum Principle Training & Development LLC. She can be reached at 603-391-2395 or hpage@platinumprinciple.com