When given, or assuming, the role of a leader, most fail to realize the importance of their main duty: to guide and create an environment that leads to personal growth and success for all those who fall under their leadership.
What is a leader?
The term ‘leader’ can be viewed in many ways. It can be an authoritative role in a business or corporation or a leader of a group outside of work, like a pastor, Girl Scout leader, or a trail guide. The key to becoming a successful leader starts with how the individual relates to people. Leadership is not a skill most people naturally possess, but it can be learned. Empathy and emotional intelligence are key leadership traits that are frequently overlooked. Why is this? Some find it to be a manipulative skill. Some leaders will use it to mask one’s own feelings while taking advantage of others. Adolf Hitler is a prime example. He was a master at disguising his own selfish motives to manipulate others.
Others would categorize emotional intelligence as a feminine trait, because it is less aggressive and does not need intimidation to be effective. Women in leadership roles have an advantage in this area. Women are viewed as emotionally based already, so the door is open, and almost expected, for women to use emotional intelligence skills in most, if not all, their dealings. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage depending on how emotionally invested women become. Although women develop this skill at an early age, emotional balance is necessary for both genders to become a strong leader.
A common mistake most leaders make is thinking their role is solely to dictate and tell others what to do. Some leaders even criticize the way that subordinates do their work. Many in this role fail to see the importance of communication, feedback, active listening, and building relationships with employees. Building relationships does not mean trying to become everyone’s best friend, but rather developing emotional intelligence skills: getting to know the staff, group members, congregation, etc., on a personal level. Building a relationship involves taking a personal interest in the growth and success of their careers. This allows those in leadership to relate to their staff or group members. Thus making them more receptive to the direction and guidance of their leader.
Building emotional intelligence skills
Leaders should focus on building emotional intelligence skills. These skills lead to higher job satisfaction, as staff members feel valued and appreciated. This will encourage participation, boost the productivity rate, create a more cohesive environment, and increase morale.
American psychologist, Daniel Goleman, developed a framework of five elements that define emotional intelligence:
- Self-Awareness – These leaders understand their own emotions; recognize and address their own strengths and weaknesses.
- Self-Regulation– These leaders are self-controlled, avoid impulses and think before they act.
- Motivation – These leaders are motivated and productive.
- Empathy – These leaders are able to understand, identify and relate to the concerns and needs of others. They are great listeners and avoid judging or stereotyping.
- Social Skills – These leaders are team focused rather than being self focused. They are also great communicators.
What are the takeaways?
The first step to being a more effective leader is to first become self-aware. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Where can you make improvements? From there, focus on regulating your emotions and being more mindful of how you respond. Stay motivated, focusing on the long-term goals, not just on immediate results. Learn to put yourself in the shoes of those working for you. This may take some cultural awareness or diversity training or a conversation with an employee, but focus on relating and listening. Lastly, develop better communication skills and take the focus off of you and focus on the group as a whole.
Remember the team’s success is the leader’s success. It is not a competition. Building relationships is the foundation upon life is built. It teaches respect for others and their feelings. Emotional intelligence instills the discipline needed to engage with one another in this world. When a leader takes the time to make themselves better, their leadership skills increase, which ultimately improves company culture, productivity and job satisfaction.