Human Leaders: Three Uncommon Tips for Your own Emotional Intelligence Journey

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I am preparing to speak on a panel on emotional intelligence (EQ), and I’ve let my mind wander on the topic a bit — thinking about how EQ has evolved over the years, how it’s different post 2020, and of course, why it matters now.

There is one thing that has not changed: the people who have high EQ are people who have done work on themselves. They have learned lessons. They have royally messed up and realized it. They have focused on getting better, and hopefully have improved. They have a drive to get better, and they have been thoughtful. It is also likely they have invested years working on themselves, in a variety of formats.

So, this is really a plug to work on yourself. You cannot be emotionally intelligent with others if you don’t know yourself in and out — if you aren’t aware of your amazing strengths AND your really awful flaws and how they play out.

Some not often spoken about items to think about if you want to be an emotionally intelligent leader:

If you don’t have a story to tell, no one will listen to you.

The first time I managed a team I was in my early twenties. We were worried about productivity. So, I asked my team to print out their calendars so I could see how they were spending their time. This was really the plan my logical brain came up with because I thought it was a thing managers do. I hadn’t yet learned that I wanted to be a leader, not a manager.

I am laughing as I type this. I, with a straight face, asked grown adult humans to print their calendars so I could comb through their day like they were naughty children. I was a terrible manager my first time around, and by the way that activity of course didn’t give me the data I needed, did not improve productivity, and in fact tanked morale, which in turn lowered productivity.

I share this story with any new leader I run into who is struggling. Humans live by stories — the ones we tell ourselves about ourselves and others, the ones we see and hear. We retain information through stories. Think about your journey as a leader, or just as a human. What are some of your life lesson moments? What were pivotal game changers in your career? Share those stories. They help you become relatable, and they demonstrate your experience. They bring the lessons to life for others and have the possibility to inspire.

If you treat yourself like crap, your kindness muscle is weak.

The most emotionally intelligent people I know are kind to themselves, and self-care is part of their religion. This is because how you treat yourself inevitably leaks out to how you treat others. So, as a leader, becoming emotionally intelligent and creating a thriving work environment means you have to personally do so for yourself.

If you are running stories in your head all of the time that you suck, or you are focused on negative space more than you acknowledge your wins, you will treat your family, friends and team the same. I live by the phrase — where your mind goes, energy flows. Lord knows I spend a lot of energy redirecting my mind to what I want to experience.

How you treat yourself is the training ground for how you will treat others. If you are balanced and supportive, you will get more from yourself and your team. If you are a hot mess and feel like crap all the time — guess what — so will the people around you. Psychological Safety is absolutely a trending focus in the area of Emotional Intelligence — I love how @AdamGrant talks about it in his new book “Think Again.”

Negativity Is more contagious than a virus. The good news is that positivity is more contagious.

Make a habit of doing or saying something nice, with no agenda.

There is a lot of talk about what leadership needs to look like now, and if we’re honest it’s a topic that is always going to be popular because it is so rarely well done. I do appreciate this HBR article as a nice summary of what’s important to think about for leaders today.

I had a colleague call me yesterday, out of the blue, to share that she appreciated something I did in a meeting. That was the whole reason for her call, and it felt amazing. In fact, I didn’t even know I needed that, but I did.

Appreciating and validating someone is a glorious, and catalyzing gift to give someone. We are very rarely told what we are doing well — and it is taken for granted. It is a powerful leadership tool for getting anything done — make people feel like valuable contributors and they sure will live up to your vision of them!

When you do it, it feels amazing, and when you receive it, you want to do it for someone else. At the very least it made me want to do more of the good thing I did.

When was the last time you told the people you value, exactly what they bring to your table?

I am not a perfect leadership specimen, but I am always getting better, and appreciating the journey and growth that comes with it. Thanks for entertaining my thoughts — and please feel free to share your own with me!

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Empathic business consultant. Driver of human connection. Curious observer. AI Lover.

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Empathic business consultant. Driver of human connection. Curious observer. AI Lover.

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