- Sadie Hunter
Take the Lead & Get Emotional
“You can be anxious, sensitive, kind, and wear your heart on your sleeve. You can be a mother, or not, you can be an ex-Mormon, or not. You can be a nerd, a crier, a hugger, you can be all of these things and not only can you be here, you can lead just like me,” Jacinda Ardern, in her final address to New Zealand (NZ) parliament last week.
Ardern has been recognized and praised for her compassion and empathy, her authenticity and vulnerability–qualities often not seen readily in politics or in leadership. This display of emotional intelligence is partly what propelled Ardern onto the world stage, gaining her wide recognition outside of NZ.
During her time as prime minister, Ardern made difficult decisions and didn’t shy away from the emotional components of those decisions or policies. In announcing her resignation, she didn’t shy away from recognizing the emotional toll of the pandemic or the threats she received due to some of the pandemic-related measures.
I find it interesting her leadership style was so highly and widely praised yet there is still a resistance to recognizing the power of emotional intelligence in leadership.
That we need to tough things out and put on a strong and infallible exterior is slowly starting to be questioned, despite examples like Ardern. The more our leaders can move in the direction of authenticity and vulnerability, the more normalized it will become.
We’re all humans and none of us are exempt from experiencing emotions. So why do we expect emotions to be removed from the workplace or from leadership?
The tough business shark persona might be appealing in theory, but in practice, how well does it actually work? If you think back to movies where this is the persona of a main character, the predictable outcome is the person experiences some kind of crisis and is overtaken with emotion or the impact of suppressing their emotions.
So why is the tendency to idealize this as a desirable trait when it really isn’t?
My theory is because it treads into an area of discomfort. Talking about and dealing with emotions isn’t something everyone is equally skilled at or comfortable doing. It also requires some level of vulnerability in terms of leading by example and sharing the emotional dimension of yourself. Leaders who’ve taken the courageous leap to being more emotionally intelligent are reaping the benefits–and this is (thankfully) starting to get the attention of those who dismissed it before.
Emotional intelligence, also referred to as EQ, is defined as the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as recognize and influence the emotions of those around you.
A 2019 Harvard Business School article asserts emotional intelligence is what sets high performers apart from peers who have similar skills and knowledge.
Emotional intelligence is typically broken down into four or five core competencies:
Leading with empathy.
I prefer to include leading with empathy because I think it’s absolutely key. Empathy translates into humility and the ability to meet others where they are–leading to others feeling seen and heard. At the end of the day, that’s what we all want, isn’t it?
The Center for Creative Leadership states our emotions “influence how we react to challenges and opportunities…determine whether or not we collaborate to resolve conflict…prompt our willingness to forgive ourselves and others.”
“As we move through our days, our emotions play a role in the amount of effort we demonstrate, what behaviours we display, our psychological health, and our moods.”
My way of explaining all of this is with the phrase “everywhere you go, there you are.”
We can’t escape ourselves, our experiences, or our personalities. What we can do is learn to leverage our strengths and to become aware of opportunities for improvement. Being aware is often the biggest hurdle to emotional intelligence. Once you are aware, then there needs to be a willingness to act. To self manage and to be vulnerable in relationships–even (I would say especially) with employees.
Being fully human isn’t a sign of weakness. Acknowledging all parts of our humanity and leading by example in the pursuit of self growth takes strength.
Are you interested in learning how to bring the five core competencies of emotional intelligence into your professional and/or personal life? Book a free consultation with me and let’s discuss how we can partner together to achieve your goals.
As an added bonus, I’ve included a link to 21 songs about emotions and feelings–enjoy!