How intelligent are you? A successful business owner has many attributes, which may include creativity, determination, financial acumen, energy, resilience, resourcefulness – the list goes on. But does intelligence have a place on the list?
One aspect of ‘intelligence’ that is getting a lot of attention is ‘emotional intelligence’ (EI). The book ‘Emotional Intelligence’ by Daniel Goleman provides a great introduction and is well worth a read. But is EI an important, or relevant, area for business leaders to explore? Is a high level of EI likely to be correlated with or even a causation of success?
Increasingly the archetype of a successful business leader is being challenged. Far from the extrovert ‘alpha male’ leader of the 20th century, leaders in the 21st century are often more introvert, humble and centred on their teams and clients. Today’s great leaders are those who identify, develop and empower their people allowing them to take credit for successes and the space to take risks. Your team has far greater capacity, energy and ideas than you alone – trying to do it all yourself is self-limiting.
Here are five indicators that you are using your emotional intelligence:
- You are yourself. People are perceptive and quickly assess others to detect how genuine and authentic another person is being. To take the lead from another person requires trust so any signals that detract from building that trust diminishes effective leadership. For some of us the temptation is to adopt what we perceive to be the right persona of a leader – we hide some facets of our own personality and try to adopt others, even if they are not natural.
- You are flexible and adaptable. The author J B Priestly said, “’Be yourself’ is about the worst advice you can give to some people”. The ability to read situations and people is a great asset in any part of your life. Understanding when a member of your team needs coaching, training, encouragement, space to try again, direct intervention or support makes a huge difference both to their development and how effective you are in your role as a leader. Knowing when to use different leaderships styles is a great asset.
- You are open to feedback. The culture of an organisation is usually created and reinforced by the leader. Openness and trust are words many use to describe what they would like to experience. A leader who is genuinely open to feedback goes a long way to creating such a culture. Accepting feedback in a positive way, fully assessing its possibilities and acting accordingly are great skills that can be developed and improved. Equally important is helping your team develop their skill in providing feedback in an appropriate, positive and genuine way i.e. being constructive. By learning to give feedback and recognising its value your team will be more open to receiving feedback – from each other and you. These are big steps towards creating a strong performance orientated business.
- You accept and learn from mistakes – both yours and those of your team. When someone makes a mistake, they should feel ‘safe’ enough to say so, empowered to propose a solution or confident to admit they don’t know how to fix the problem. Your reaction to a mistake sends very powerful ripples around the rest of the company. Do you want things hidden from you, covered up or ignored or do you want openness to put things right and make them better in the future? Similarly, your acceptance of your own shortcomings and potential for errors sets the example and influences the culture. A leader who maintains that they ‘should’ be able to do everything better than their team is putting a self-imposed cap on the potential of the business. Whether it comes naturally or not, a little humility from a leader is a very attractive characteristic.
- You recognise the reason for having two ears and one mouth and you use them in that proportion. Effective communication and engagement with others is more about listening and understanding than talking. Emotionally intelligent leaders don’t dominate the conversation by talking over others and they don’t only talk about themselves or the task at hand. They listen and reflect on what they have heard and they ask questions. They ask not only what the team thinks about something, but also how they feel about it. You may have a very strong sense of the conclusion you want to reach but be patient and see if you can encourage the team to get there first. It’s a fine balance, and hence quite a skill, but done well you will achieve inclusiveness and participation yet still have pace and conciseness.
A lot of common sense? Yes, but sense is not as common as we might all expect, whether from leaders or team members. This common sense does require intelligence but it’s not the intelligence found in traditional books of management.
Developing your emotional intelligence can accelerate your business performance and that of your team. Contact us today to discover how intelligent you can be.