By Gino Blefari
This week my travels found me at home, starting the week with my standard Monday agenda of WIG calls and the Berkshire Hathaway Energy Meeting. On Wednesday, I presented the 4DX Tune-Up to HomeServices of America Relocation Directors then presented “Mindset, Leadership and Marketing Best Practices Amid COVID-19” to three chapters of the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA): Orange County, Calif., Seattle and Portland. Finally, today I participated in the HomeServices of America Budget Review with Berkshire Hathaway Energy.
As I virtually met with leaders across the country (and world), I began thinking about the qualities all effective leaders must possess. What does it take to be a great leader? The answer is often more art than science, as author and science journalist Daniel Goleman explained in his pivotal Harvard Business Review article, “What Makes a Leader?”
There is, however, one quality of leadership that every effective leader must possess: emotional intelligence or EQ. Of course, intelligence and technical skills are important but without EQ, the most highly trained person in the world will never, as Goleman says, soar.
While everyone is born with a level of EQ, we can strengthen our EQ by focusing on the specific aspects of our personality that comprise emotional intelligence. Golman writes: “Emotional intelligence is born largely in the neurotransmitters of the brain’s limbic system, which governs feelings, impulses and drives. Research indicates that the limbic system learns best through motivation, extended practice, and feedback.”
In the spirit of practice, let’s break down the five main components Goleman identifies that make up EQ:
- Self-Awareness: Goleman defines self-awareness as “having a deep understanding of one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs and drives.” Leaders with self-awareness are not too critical or hopeful but remain honest with themselves and others about the expectations they set and will achieve. They also recognize how their feelings affect their job performance and the performance of their team. A self-aware leader is goal-oriented because he or she has a clear sense of direction and what it takes to make positive progress. They find work to be energizing and think of their role within an organization not as a job but as a passion and a calling. Self-aware leaders will freely admit failure, speaking with transparency and openness about the solution-based ways downfalls can be avoided in the future. Some senior executives may think this type of honesty is a weakness, but it is an EQ-rich leader’s greatest strength; from honest conversations breeds mutual respect among self-aware leaders and their team members.
- Self-Regulation: This particular dimension of EQ refers to a leader’s ability to have a critical and ongoing inner conversation that frees the leader from, as Goleman describes, “being a prisoner to [their] feelings.” Self-regulated leaders have strong, positive mindsets and are able to control their negative thoughts and feelings, while keeping sudden impulses that could be detrimental to an organization at bay. They’re reflective and reasonable leaders who create a fair environment marked by trust. Politics and bureaucracy are seldom found among teams led by self-regulated leaders. Also, these types of leaders do not fear change. Instead, they embrace it, finding ways to use change to foster growth.
- Motivation: Achievement for motivated leaders is not about the money or external factors. These leaders are motivated by, as Goleman explains, a deeply embedded desire to achieve for the sake of achievement. They have passion for the work they do and they’re eager to explore new ways of accomplishing their tasks. Motivated leaders are committed to their goals, seeking out scorekeeping methods so they can accurately track their progress as well as the progress of their team members and the organization as a whole.
- Empathy: By “empathy,” Goleman means leaders who thoughtfully consider their team members’ feelings and factor this empathetic perspective into their decision-making. Empathy is an increasingly important aspect of EQ, especially if we consider the rapid pace of globalization and its subsequent emphasis on empathizing with team members of different backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities. A global team only works with an underlying element of empathy present in everything they do and every goal they set out to accomplish. Additionally, empathy is crucial to retaining talent. An empathetic leader makes an incredibly effective mentor and coach, understanding how to motivate team members to unlock their greatest potential and productivity.
- Social Skill: Social skill concerns a leader’s ability to manage his or her relationship with others. Leaders with social skill generally have a wide social circle of friends and colleagues and can easily get along with all different types of people. They operate with the understanding that good work cannot get accomplished without great connections and relationships. Goleman says advanced social skills allow leaders to put their EQ to work.
So, what’s the message? Everyone possesses some level of EQ, but in strengthening our emotional intelligence — and the five components that comprise it — we’re actually strengthening our ability to effectively lead. Building emotional intelligence doesn’t happen in a day. It takes intense commitment and hard work. However, given its importance to leadership, it’s a personal endeavor worth accomplishing.