Understanding Emotional Intelligence for the Powerful Leader

By March 14, 2017Articles

Simply put, Emotional Intelligence, (EI) a term first used in 1990, refers to a far deeper level of self-awareness and self-understanding than is the norm. It naturally creates a developed ability to perceive and own the impact you have on others. Consequently, it is mandatory for effective leadership of yourself and/or others.

However, these require a level of self-awareness that not everyone consciously chooses to develop. The effort or practice required to sit in silence, to look within and objectively assess things is a process that many are not familiar with and it takes time, willingness, and patience to develop. Not surprisingly, these traits have the very powerful ability to support a transformational leadership.

As a psychotherapist for over 25 years, much of my work has been to empower people by helping them in developing Emotional Intelligence, along with empathy so that they can begin to understand themselves on many levels while also taking responsibility for the choices they have made and any level of disconnection they may have chosen.

By identifying and separating themselves from the illusions of “victim,” “abused” “unwanted” etc. many clients have been able to identify the parts they have played in the lives they have created for themselves. When you keep bringing in the same type of unhealthy relationships, the same type of jobs you don’t like, even the same pattern of difficulties in business situations, you need to look at the part you are playing in that story. In doing so, by looking at yourself and not others, you see our own patterns, learn from your own experiences, and come to understand your personal emotional triggers.

This level of Emotional Intelligence, of understanding yourself and your behavior, frees you enormously to change any situation you are in.  “I would if I could but I can’t.” generally means that you don’t like the price you would have to pay. Growth and/or awareness generally requires change and inconvenience. It may be in your attitude, style, perception or behavior. Nonetheless, change is needed on your part when things are not working. Emotionally intelligent people know that. They also realize that not making a change will only prolong or increase the pressure of the situation, making the ultimate cost far higher for everyone involved.

The benefits of developing the skill of Emotional Intelligence are enormous. The sense of freedom, empowerment, personal responsibility, and self-appreciation increases daily when this becomes a way of life. Giving up the illusion that everyone else is at fault frees you to look at your part in anything and everything you are involved in. It frees you from the story.

In working with others, you find there is no need for blame, self-blame or otherwise, simply an understanding of the situation and deciding how to best deal with it from your perspective, acknowledging what is and what outcome you want to achieve. Eliminating the concept of the enemy, of others being out to get you, or that “they” are always wrong, frees you to be far more objective, take the responsibility that is yours and leave their responsibility to them. It is the only intelligent thing to do and at that point your emotions are clearly seen as a byproduct of how you see your experience rather than the experience itself.

As a leader, Emotional Intelligence also supports you in not taking things personally –  allowing you to recognize patterns of behavior in your employees, vendors or clients. You also come to see if your reactions are encouraging those patterns in others. Are they in turn giving you permission to feel overwhelmed or any other fallback emotion?

Can you understand that if folks are late for meetings with you they are probably late in every situation? Can you understand that if they don’t look at details in spite of your frequent requests that it is a pattern they developed elsewhere and it is not about you or this particular job? The question now becomes how do you want to deal with it rather than how much can you control, punish or retaliate. An effective leader consistently creates leaders. The company depends upon it. Is this a candidate? The difference in responding vs. reacting empowers you to see what actually is happening and can happen.

My experience shows that after 3 requests for change, a power struggle develops, consciously or otherwise. As a leader, it is your responsibility, (recognize what it says, response –ability) to decide the best way to handle power struggles as well as other problems that arise. Notice that if power struggles push your buttons, you will find them frequently. With Emotional Intelligence, rather than emotional reaction, what pattern do you want to develop in dealing with them? Your being prepared is a great gift you can give yourself.

Another strong trait of Emotional Intelligence is in knowing when you are stressed, and why. What do you need to do to let it go? Know what works in what situations. I know for me at times it is a slow walk outside to clear my head of distractions. At other times it is a movie or book simply for a half-hour (or longer if needed) to let go of the energy charge the situation is bringing up. We are all different. There is no one right answer or necessarily one consistent answer. Whatever works for you is the best. I have friend who bakes and then her world is all better……  At a meeting, it may mean breathing and, while sitting there, energetically stepping out of the room for a minute just to disengage. It can work wonders. Options always provide a sense of power and choice in a situation. Use them all.

Finally, you have no control over what emotions come to the surface at any point in time. Your skill comes in knowing what emotions you want to act from.  What emotions do you want to share with the world through your actions – your responses or your reactions? Knowing yourself gives you that choice before you feel out of control.

A great benefit is that self-confidence frequently develops rapidly along with your Emotional Intelligence. It comes when you accept the person you are and the person you are trying to become. Certainly it is not because of your perfection, it doesn’t exist, but rather it is because of the growth you have achieved.  Know that it is all a result of your choice to grow with every, or most, decisions you make.

Amazingly, the more you grow, the more understanding you have for all those in your life. You see your impact on them, negatively or positively. It means you have the ability to call them to grow as well or to keep them defended, disconnected from you, and in fear. It’s your choice.  Question is, what type of leader do you choose to be?

Self-Reflections on Emotional Intelligence: 

  1. Do you tend to own when something doesn’t go as planned or look for who to blame?
  2. Do you have a stress reduction practice in place that supports you in disengaging?

I’d love to hear what you think and support you in becoming a powerful leader. Contact me at Dorothy@askdrdorothy.com or call (860) 543-5629.

About Dorothy

Dr. Dorothy’s life story of coming from an orphanage, being raised in the housing projects of South Boston, becoming a Catholic nun, an international airline stewardess, a wife, mother, graduate faculty member, Clinical Instructor at a Medical School, and so much more provides the perfect backdrop for her message of joy, humor, passion and faith as the necessary tools for life.