We have known for some time that the conditions for leadership have changed in our volatile, uncertain, constantly changing, and ambiguous (so called VUCA) world. Add to these conditions, the huge pressures of a global pandemic, and we can safely say that developing emotional intelligence skills as a leader is more important than as ever, in a world that is spinning out of control on so many levels.
Defined as an essential capability for leadership success, emotional intelligence (EI) is the capacity to recognize our own emotions and those of others, the ability to regulate our emotions, and effectively manage relationships with others (Daniel Goleman). Goleman’s research shows that leaders with higher EI have double the impact on business performance and higher levels of performance themselves. In fact, 67% of competencies essential for high performance are related to EI.
The real test of our emotional intelligence capabilities is when we are feeling overwhelmed and stressed. The leaders I work with, as an executive coach, say they have never felt more stressed in the workplace than at this time, with far greater unpredictability and tidal waves of continuous change. The leadership capabilities of being aware of one’s emotions and then being able to collaborate with them productively, under extreme conditions, is one of the constants in my coaching practice. This work with leaders has increased exponentially over the past 24 months.
Two years into a seismic global shift, leaders are managing unpredictable business conditions while providing support for employees who, like the leaders themselves, are experiencing intense feelings of anger, sadness, fear, and anxiety.
The practice of emotional intelligence is sometimes the only support tool available to a leader while navigating relentless stress levels on the job. I am hearing from my clients, that the world they work in right now has not slowed down or somehow ordered itself as we move from a global pandemic to an endemic with Covid-19.
Many leaders I work with are practicing and growing their emotional intelligence capabilities that include:
A senior leader that I work with, and will refer to her as Maria for anonymity, has been on the front lines in the healthcare delivery system for the past two years. Working with her own stress levels and a feeling of burn-out, Maria is managing her fear and anxiety when triggered in certain high stakes situations. “I manage my emotions differently, by calming myself before responding to a coworker who was in a high stress loop herself.”
Maria is becoming more adept at recognizing her emotional patterns and unconscious reactive responses. As a result, she is more able to calm herself, sit back from the situation for a moment, before choosing to ask a more helpful or strategic question. Maria recognized that when she reacts or tries to fix the situation, she inadvertently elevates the stressful emotions of others in the room. “I watched myself calm down, and even more miraculously, I watched the other person calm down and find a way forward that was her own idea.”
Her commitment to work with her emotions, that like all of us, can hijack her in high stress situations, enabled Maria to see her strongly held assumptions about what might be going on. Once she was able to do both practices, she changed the outcome for the better for everyone involved. The development of emotional intelligence competencies in leaders, especially when under stress, can foster inner resilience when the many challenges at work and in life feel insurmountable.
I founded The Red Rock Consultancy for the specific purpose of working with C-level executives, senior leaders and their leadership teams as an integral leadership development resource.