The Top 4 Choices Of Emotionally Intelligent Leaders: Leaders exhibit a wide spectrum of behaviour and development. All too frequently, seniority appears to be more a function of ambition than competence. Emotional Intelligence is one such competency that can be worryingly underdeveloped even at the highest levels – perhaps due to the challenges inherent in not just defining and measuring it, but actively developing it in leaders.

“As a senior partner of a large consultancy commented: “I’m aware that how I walk through the office in the morning can set the mood for the rest of the day.”

In this article, rather than trying to chase definitions and reduce EI (or is it EQ?) to a series of parameters with no agreed units of measurement, we’ll examine the top 4 choices of strategy  adopted by emotionally intelligent leaders:

1. Deliverables First, Receivables Second

Although JFK’s somewhat overused dictum:

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

reflects noble altruism, it is also highly practical. It is far easier to exercise control over, shape and develop what you bring to the world, than what you take from it. Emotionally intelligent leaders know that however seductive the rewards of work might be, focusing on delivering your organisation’s value to market has to be its priority – that, after all, is its purpose – not the collection of revenues.

They also experience that the more emphasis they place on delivering real value, the more easily income flows in return.

2. The Temporary Suspension of Judgement

The ability to suspend and bypass one’s critical faculties is valued by emotionally intelligent leaders. In doing so they can connect fully with their colleagues, listen attentively and allow curiosity to guide them to greater clarity. Listening to learn, rather than waiting to rebuff, is the strategy.

This meeting of minds creates empathy and facilitates creativity – it’s a divergent process that welcomes new possibilities. It is the antithesis of our overused faculty of discrimination which, rather like a sharp knife, dissects and divides. Sitting on the fence is the best place to see both sides clearly before deciding which to choose.

Of course both these faculties of mind have their place, but when one dominates, emotional intelligence suffers.

3. A Focus on Behaviour Over Words

Emotional Intelligence is a consequence of self-awareness which aligns what we say with how we behave. When there is a disconnect between speech and action, it erodes trust, communication and relationships.

Ultimately it is action that speaks louder than words, and it is the actions and behaviour of leaders that shape organisational culture to a far greater extent than the words they use.

As a senior partner of a large consultancy commented: “I’m aware that how I walk through the office in the morning can set the mood for the rest of the day.”

Emotionally Intelligent leaders tend to speak less and listen more, as a result of this insight. Or as Lao Tsu put it:

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.

4. A Healthy Aversion to Beliefs

Of the top 4 Choices of strategy, the final one is key! What we believe, we invest our identity in – we give it life. The problem is that what I believe, you may not – a familiar scenario, independent of evidence and proof. Emotionally intelligent leaders get this, and rather than investing their being in ideas, develop wisdom through experience. In this way they neither accept nor reject a hypothesis until it has been tested.

Paradoxically, this approach puts believers and non-believers in the same category: they both believe – one in something, the other in nothing. Both exclude the alternative. The faithful and the atheist alike pin their faiths to different masts – whereas the emotionally intelligent admit their ignorance, and content themselves with simply not knowing.

Not knowing leaves the mind open to new perspectives – knowing shuts it down.

In making these four choices, the emotionally intelligent leader is aware of working against their own habits and reactive urges, to establish a clearer, calmer and more balanced response to the shifting world around them.

This work is inner and personal and often invisible – the results are for all to see.