Become a Leader: How to Develop Emotional Intelligence
I had this friend in high school that was such a ladies’ man. I’m not going to lie; I was a bit jealous. And he wasn’t even making an effort! He would just approach any girl he felt attracted to, and in a few weeks, they would be together. As simple as that.
He wasn’t a liar, he wasn’t a player, he just had enough self-confidence to do everything he wanted. It’s like he didn’t know words like “shame” or “fear”.
And I wanted to be like that. I wanted to walk the hallways of my high school and feel like I was loved, respected, admired, and welcomed.
So I paid special attention to this friend of mine for a few years, trying to copy his “methods” and “phrases”. It worked for a while, not as much as I expected, but it did work.
Sadly, a few years later I found out that this friend of mine had ended up hospitalized in a mental institution for a few weeks because he had suffered a mental breakdown. I just couldn’t believe it!
If you want to find out what happened next, and how exactly this story relates to your journey on how to develop emotional intelligence and become a leader, keep reading!
What is Emotional Intelligence
I didn’t know it at the time, but my friend (who I will name Peter from now on) had strong emotional intelligence skills.
To explain what is emotional intelligence, I’d like you to think about your flaws and positive features. All of them. Got them? Well now imagine that those “flaws” could also be understood as positive features and use them in your favor.
Emotional intelligence is the capability of understanding, using, and positively managing your emotions. It allows you to properly label your and other people’s feelings, and to acquire relevant emotional information that will guide your actions and thoughts.
When you are capable of understanding your emotions, you will no longer be a slave to them. In fact, you will learn to handle them in your favor, no matter the circumstances.
Peter came from a loving family, and as far as I know, there was always space for him to communicate his feelings, even though, as a teenager, he really didn’t like to talk about them.
But it helped him to create a strong foundation to stand on, and since he would take the time to understand his feelings, he would also have more time to think about what he wanted to do and how to achieve it.
So, what happened to Peter if everything was okay? How come he ended up with a mental breakdown?
It turns out he had fallen madly in love with a girl right after finishing high school. The relationship had lasted around 4 years until he found out she was also seeing another man. You see, this was such a hard thing to process for him that he lost all control of his emotions, and it wasn’t something that happened in a day or two.
He literally was consumed by his thoughts and trying to understand himself, he never talked to her. Instead, he tried to calm down by “looking for evidence.” And he did.
He found the other man’s address and drove to his house without a plan. Just being a pray of his angst and thoughts.
And once outside his house, he did nothing for 8 hours. Just parked there, went out a few times, probably consumed in anger and sadness, not knowing what to do. And when it was time to face this man, he just started crying. That’s when he realized his foundation was shattered.
Peter did not lose his emotional intelligence, but he had forgotten to nurture it over the years and that’s why he collapsed.
The natural leader I had once known was still there, he just needed a friendly hand to help him see it.
How to Develop Emotional Intelligence
I bring to you Peter’s case because it’s, the way I see it, a great example of how life can change completely in one day, and the importance of being aware of our emotions to move on from bad experiences and to heal ourselves and those around us.
Natural-born leaders, or those who are made, must be able to recognize their emotions and understand them to influence others’ behavior. This doesn’t mean you will control their minds or anything like that, but rather identify what the other person may look for in you, and give it to them if it’s also favourable to you.
Daniel Goleman, a prolific scientist journalist once said:
“The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but…they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions.”
Now I ask you this: Do you think someone can be a leader if they don’t have emotional intelligence? What kind of leader would you like to follow? What kind of leader do you want to become?
Keep in mind those questions and answer them after reading the following components of emotional intelligence.
In my expertise, this is the most important element. In previous posts, I have talked about self-awareness, which can be defined as the ability to see yourself clearly, of perceiving your emotions and external situations objectively and consciously taking action.
A self-aware leader not only has the capability of guiding a team to success, but they also can bring out the best in others.
Some researchers have stated that your current emotional experience is highly likely a reflection of your early years, which could explain why Peter was so confident back then.
He had a supportive and open-hearted family, who helped him identify and express assertively his emotions, even in his teenage years. But once he moved out of home, that support system changed, and he had to deal with it by himself.
What I recommend to those of you who haven’t had a supportive family, who find themselves immersed in doubts and the famous impostor syndrome: do not distance yourself from emotion.
Feel. Feel whatever you have to feel, dig inside yourself, and connect the dots. Why are you feeling this way? Is this something you can fix? If so, where would you start?
- Feelings are supposed to flow, don’t fight it. Rather pause and try to deconstruct them
- Are those feelings accompanied by physical sensations? Try to control your breath and make space in your mind to calm down
- Give mindfulness a chance! It will help you learn to focus your attention on the present and change your current life perspective (shifting your focus from worries to appreciation and growth)
- Try to think like the others, not to manipulate them (and much less to feed intrusive thoughts), but to understand how they would feel or react. It provides you with a wider vision of their possible reactions and how you could face this scenario
Self-awareness leads to self-management, and it’s an important feature for leaders because a leader who can understand his or her emotions is somebody aware enough of his or her surroundings. Which means they can understand better what others are going through.
If you learn to manage stress and to stay emotionally present for those around you (and yourself), you will manage to decode others’ behavior, so you will be more apt to make important choices that involve other people.
All those things together help leaders to manage their actions, inspire others to commit with a cause or responsibility, adapt faster to unexpected circumstances, to take more initiative, and to resolve conflicts healthily.
In my experience, this is one of the hardest steps to achieve in a person’s journey to developing and improving their emotional intelligence.
How hard it is to do something when we truly don’t want to! Everything from getting out of bed in the morning, making healthy meals, even showering can be hard if we are not motivated enough.
But motivation, as many beautiful things in life, fortunately, comes from within. So you can stop spending time trying to feel motivated with external inputs.
Being aware of your surroundings, and your inner self allows you to differentiate between those things that can be changed and those that need to be accepted.
Acceptance gives you peace to move on from that part of your life that’s hurting, in trouble, or constantly worried. It helps you to find motivation even in the little things.
But of course, this step takes a lot of practice and reflection. I am here for you if you need help developing the confidence you need to be as great as you know you are in any area of your life. I am here for you, to guide you and help you discover all the potential hidden inside of you.
How Can You Practice Emotional Intelligence?
Now that you know what emotional intelligence is about, I’m sure you want to know how to practice it.
Here I give you some tips I offer in my conferences, feel free to contact me to know more about each step, or anything related to your own confidence journey.
Talk more to yourself
No, it’s not going to unleash paranoia. It’s going to help you be more comfortable with yourself and your emotions.
Since emotional intelligence starts with self-awareness and self-management, a good way to recognize and understand your emotions is by feeling them.
You can’t truly know the potential of your emotions if you don’t know what they are. Naming an emotion is like giving it a face, and once that emotion has a face, it’s like talking to a person.
For example, out of anger can come up bravery. But how can you discover that if you don’t know your anger? And more importantly, if you can’t recognize or understand your anger, how can you do the same with other people’s anger?
As I said before, being self-aware helps you to be empathetic with others. We do not need more leaders giving orders around and not being present for others, we need more friendly leaders, that can truly understand our feelings and consider them.
Empathy is recognizing others’ feelings and responding accordingly. It’s about treating people the way you wish to be treated, it’s being able to work along with people who are completely different from you, it’s responding, not reacting.
A good way to develop empathy is simply listening. Listen to what others have to say, how they feel, ask them how they are doing, and encourage an answer beyond than “just fine”.
See criticism as an opportunity
It’s hard facing criticism. Especially self-criticism. But if instead of seeing it as a challenge, as something you have to prove to somebody else, see it as an opportunity to be better, to grow, and to be the leader you want to become.
It’s okay not to be loved by everyone, but when everybody at your workplace has something negative to say about you or your work, maybe it’s time to see inside yourself and truly figure out if there’s a chance they are right.
And if they are, don’t get sad! Be thankful because you had the strength to recognize it. Because now you have important information and the will to make positive changes.
If a leader can recognize their mistakes, and change for good, don’t you think he or she will be more appreciated? Happier? More productive?
This road is not easy, but I promise you it is worth the long ride. If there’s anything I can help you with in terms of helping you improve or develop your emotional intelligence, do not doubt in contacting me.
I am here for you, your team, your family, and anyone else who needs a little guidance in this life. Schedule a strategy call with me.