Are you prepared to lead into the future?
Most leaders are not.
The world is increasing in complexity, and you as a leader must grow to support change effectively. The problem is that most in leadership have reached the top and stopped growing. They have given in to the false premise that, because they have the ability to meet today’s demands, they can certainly meet what the future brings.
Are you a leader who has reached the top – and stopped?
You may think you have what it takes. However, there are three shifts that, unless you make them, will quickly render you ineffective in the future.
What are these? And why should you pay attention when things are fine the way they are right now?
This week, we’ll talk about the first shift – why you need to make it and first steps to take.
Shift I: Relational Abilities Must Increase
Relational skills are now taking a front seat to all other leadership competencies. Your ability to relate well to others may work well today, but tomorrow’s leadership will need to call on more and to sharpen their emotional intelligence (“EQ”) on a consistent basis.
Emotional intelligence (“EQ”) is what helps you have high relational skills, and these are paramount to effective leadership.
Here are just some of the ways that EQ facilitates this:
- EQ allows you to understand how your emotions and actions affect the people around you. This is necessary to regulating the way you interact with others so that you can create bonds and team.
- EQ provides you with the ability to put yourself in the shoes of others, to understand how they feel, and to consider their perspectives. This ability to empathize can draw people to you and influence them. It can serve to power negotiations in tense times, and to promote compassion, which is a necessary component to embodying powerful servant leadership.
- EQ promotes good communication. If you have forged bonds and trust with others, you tend to communicate better and more often, avoiding conflict and misunderstandings that poor communication fosters.
- EQ provides you with the ability to mentor others and shape a healthy culture. Your ability to model high relational skills will serve as the prototype for your entire organization.
And in a world where constant change has become the norm, your ability to relate well to others is what will instill confidence in you and commitment to you on the part of those around you.
The problem is that we relate to others as we have been taught. This means that we bring with us a host of older experiences that color how well we are able to show up with and relate to others. Sharpening your EQ so that you up-level your ability to relate is more important than ever.
Are you already a pro in relating? Is your EQ high? You still need to make the shift to lead successfully into the future.
Here’s why: Emotional intelligence needs consistent exercise to remain effective. Your EQ is a “muscle” that needs flexing on a regular basis, or you will lose it. What’s more, just like working out at the gym, you can’t focus only on bicep curls and expect that the rest of your body will become fit by osmosis.
Use it – or lose it.
In fact, if you neglect your EQ for an extended period, you place yourself in danger of developing what we call Hubris Syndrome. If this is the case, you are now in imminent danger of losing your leadership position and perhaps your company.
How do you avoid this?
Here are 5 steps to systematically strengthen your EQ to support your relational skills.
1. Tap back into your own emotions. For example, how do you typically respond when someone delivers bad news to you? Criticizes you unfairly? Cuts you off on the freeway? By recognizing your emotions, you will be better able to regulate and control them so that you manage your relationships and interactions with others better. Tapping back into your emotions also allows you to recognize these emotions in others and to empathize with them. When you exhibit empathy, you build rapport, as others feel you care.
2. Ask others for their perspective. Leaders develop tunnel-vision when it comes to decision-making. After all, putting out fires all day long, dealing with the unexpected and the myriad of pieces that make up the organization requires fast thinking and acting. However, 60% of all decisions that leaders make are wrong, and this is primarily due to “either-or” problem-solving. “Either we do this, or we do that.” Asking others for their perspective on various issues that arise can give you added insight to expand your options. At the same time you widen your perspective-taking, you also allow others to feel they can contribute to the larger picture. And that’s a great relational skill.
3. Be curious instead of quick to judge. You think you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes, but can you really know how they feel? We bring our own experiences to the mix, and it is wise to ask questions rather than assume that you understand how they feel or what they want. Replace phrases such as, “I know just how you feel…” with ones like, “This feels devastating to me, but tell me how this affects you. I want to understand…”
4. Develop deep listening skills. There is perhaps no greater gift than that of being heard. Exercising deep listening skills is to hear beyond words, to ask questions instead of assuming, and to attune with another so they feel recognized and validated. Developing your skills in this area takes consistent practice, and it is well worth your time and effort. For more on this, see my article “How to Raise Your Influence in Less Than 5 Seconds.”
5. Decide to confront conflict courageously. There is perhaps nothing more damaging to our ability to relate than to allow unresolved conflict to fester. To feel a rupture in a relationship without repair is to foster stress, negative feelings, lost opportunities, and poor modeling for others. The cost of inaction – of allowing the rupture to fester – touches many, affecting the quality of your leadership and the lives of those around you. Want to fall in love with conflict so that you improve the quality of your relationships on a systematic basis? Read here.
I invite you to begin sharpening your emotional intelligence today so that you enjoy more influence, better decision-making, more productive and fulfilling relationships, and a healthier leadership future. How might having higher relational skills benefit you, your team, and your organization?
Next week, we will explore the second of three shifts you need to make: Vertical Development 2.0.
DO OTHERS REALLY TRUST YOU?
Learn the two vital parts to trust and how they can help you become a more highly effective leader.
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Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.