a brain and a heart made of clay

3 tips for better leadership

October 28, 2021

written by
Barbara O Stephenson

emotional intelligence in leadership: 3 tips

Emotional Intelligence: The ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict.

Let’s start by clarifying that leadership I’m talking about is not the hair-pulling, door-slamming, screaming-at-everyone emotional leadership. Nor is it passive-aggressive or manipulative leadership. Instead, it’s about emotional intelligence in leadership.

A leader can only do this if they are self-aware. A person who doesn’t understand themselves cannot understand others. It doesn’t mean you’re not a good leader; it means that you have no clue how to bring out the best in other people in a sustainable and good way for them.

If you look at the culture of Amazon under Jeff Bezos or Uber under Travis Kalanick, both are famous for fostering a type A cut-throat culture. Sure, they drove people insane but they also expected them to maim or destroy their coworkers to get the best work done. That pushed them to the top of their industry until political correctness, common sense, and ‘libtards’ complained, plus a dash of anti-discrimination thrown in with a human rights issue or two.

Ask any generation Z member, and they will tell you, that’s the bane of being an old white man in a patriarchy. It’s the type of leadership that doesn’t know anything other than slash and burn until all that’s left to stand upon is a pile of bones and ashes of those you ran over on your way to the top. But don’t feel too badly for those types of men. They are the titans of industry who have pools and planes and are trying to escape this dying planet to take penis-shaped rockets to Mars. And there are plenty of other women and non-white men who aspire to do the same.

So if you’re not trying to make people’s lives miserable and replace love and compassion with a Rolex, what are the most important things to do?

Here’s my take on the top 3:

1. Open Conversation

Open conversation is important to maintain emotional leadership. If you’re a weeping daisy who can’t take feedback, who doesn’t listen, or who makes fun of people who are open about things- you’re not emotionally intelligent. You should be able to listen to what is said in between the pauses, to when people speak, or to see how the behavior and speech are aligned or not. Backbiting, undermining, or taking all the credit because of egotism, in the long run, creates a nasty culture. Note, this takes a ton of energy on your part but it’s key to responsive leading in an intelligent manner that brings out the best of your team.

2. Compromising to Achieve Goals

Compromising to achieve goals is also key to being a good leader. Don’t always pay attention to the squeaky wheel and don’t let one wheel throw your team off the path. Loud and forceful speaking is simply a childish tact to drown out others. If your team just wanders into holes or fights each other to achieve a solution, you’ve basically got two options.

(1) Come in and override them, with fists swinging and just make a decision, or (2) tease apart the dynamics to settle on the solution. Sometimes this means using terms such as “good question” or “I like your thinking” or “how do you feel about this solution and why do you think yours is a better option”.

Sometimes, it means actually having everyone on the team speak. And everyone listens without thinking about how quickly they can issue a rebuttal. It will mean more time spent in conversation but usually, it only takes a few times of doing this the tediously long drawn out way and annoying everyone before your team learns how it benefits them to do this themselves.

3. It’s About Altitude

Looking at what’s good for the whole and not the part. Our brand director likes to use the term “altitude” when she discusses the difference between branding, marketing, and sales. Or when she wants you to stop focusing on micro-managing and letting your team do their jobs. The altitude of your perspective is key to emotional intelligence.

Knowing when to follow up on issues like the difference between a pet peeve when people aren’t using an Oxford comma VS when one department undermines another is key. You have to know yourself enough to know when you’re just being a nit-picky jerk because you’re having a bad day or because it’s important to the brand values.