There is nothing in the world that has a more profound impact, for better and worse, on leadership than emotional intelligence. Yet, many practice leadership from an external locus of control, something one imposes upon others, something that exists to fulfill the need to manage, direct, and organize people toward a common goal.
Real leadership however, in its most effective form, inspires and motivates people. It is ‘authentic leadership’. To celebrate one’s unique and authentic self, with the goal of serving and inspiring others – this is possibly the most liberating discovery a developing leader can make. Authentic leadership is self-empowering, yielding greater personal and organizational results.
Discovering Authentic Leadership and Emotional Intelligence
Good leaders are strong communicators, motivate people, and are able to transform conflict into a positive force moving toward the goal. They can also have a stabilizing effect during turbulent times. But today that’s simply the employment prerequisite in many organizations. Even high achievers can often be leaving results on the table because they are missing out on several critical ingredients. Honesty and compassion are two of them that can make an overwhelming difference.
What does emotionally intelligent authentic leadership look like and how is it different?
Authentic leadership isn’t some kind of “strategy du jour” for modern leaders, it has always existed. Looking closely at well known leaders in history, we can spot some of the truly successful ones who developed an ability to empathize, who sought to first understand rather than be understood, and who always maintained a strong value system that was transparent and respected. These leaders embodied the elements of an exceptional leader whose words, actions and results are an inspirational example of the best leadership can be: the highest level of integrity and fairness; compassion, empathy and understanding; empowering and encouraging; clearly articulating what is expected; holding others accountable for their own actions.
These are traits of an authentic, emotionally-intelligent leader, one who understands that people always want to know how much you care, one who understands that results come from people, not memos and directives.
The idea of being true to oneself is not new, Shakespeare wrote about it long ago. But our world’s modern day leadership often reflects yesterday’s approach as we struggle to shake the leadership hangover from the past. By rejecting the power-based win-lose “carrot and stick” leadership that much of our world is still unconsciously practicing, we can begin to be true to ourself and achieve greater results. The payoff is huge.
Awareness of what’s holding you back
Developing a high level of awareness of what’s truly holding us back helps pave the way for incredible results that all of us are capable of. In my executive coaching practice, I use a system, the Master of Business Leadership system (MBL) that ‘peels back the layers’ of how we look at ourselves and others and reveals the ‘many stories we tell ourselves’. These self-fulfilling stories are fuelled by the fear, habits and perceptions that we individually harbour but which we are mostly unaware of. Once we become aware of those fears, habits, and perceptions, as well as the walls we build around ourselves as a result, we open the door to full engagement in all aspects of our lives.
The wood/heat syndrome
This is a basic and powerful philosophy: ‘If you want more, give more’. This is tied into the concept that teamwork and relationships cannot be ‘conditional’, and it turns ‘carrot and stick’ management on its head. The “I’ll give you wood if you give me heat” syndrome doesn’t work – by giving the wood rather than asking for heat, conflict often melts away and forward momentum is sustained. I have personally embraced this approach and it has had a significant impact on numerous relationships resulting in remarkable breakthroughs.
The toxic leader
At some point in our careers we all have or will likely come into contact with the ‘Toxic Leader’. This is the person who is wrestling internally with so much fear that they simply poison the organization with their habits and actions. It would be easy simply to avoid these people, but often we have no choice but to face them. By lowering our own walls and focusing on what’s really important, we become authentic and it’s the best way to engage the toxic leader. It frustrates them of course, they want desperately to steal everyone’s energy and encourage others to also become the victims that they already are. These types usually leave the organization once the culture turns against them, but until that happens they act as an obstacle to achieving high performance results. Being better prepared to deal with the ‘toxic leader’ using emotional intelligence and authenticity helps us avoid becoming a victim, both of our own self-doubt and of those who masquerade as real leaders.
Most people want to have a meaningful impact within our organizations and communities. The truth is that results come from people, and people that are fully engaged deliver better results. Engaged people are those that are highly motivated and truly inspired by authentic leadership. The MBL system is a unique and brilliantly straightforward approach to leadership that will raise your awareness of what may be holding you back and help you strive to be the only emotionally intelligent authentic leader you should ever be waiting for – You!