No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care – Theodore Roosevelt.
We all know good leadership when we see it but sometimes we may find it difficult to actually describe what it is about leaders which defines their success. But one thing is clear; leadership is successful when leaders command the genuine respect of others. They are admired, respected and valued by many and that is why good leaders are in sustainable leadership roles. One can hold a senior position in an organisation ; he or she may be your boss but they might not be your leader. Good leaders understand those they lead; they have real empathy and they show they care.
One vital characteristic that all great leaders have is emotional intelligence. Those in the public eye who lack this trait tend to be dictatorial , are often insecure and portray narcissistic tendencies. Instead of harmony and cohesion they create disharmony and division. By contrast good leaders with genuine emotional intelligence can inspire their followers, while building trust and harmony.. Such leaders can manage their own emotions but also understand those of others. Because they can manage themselves they are better able to lead others.
Research shows that many people of average intelligence outperform those with high I.Q. It is now accepted that I.Q. is not the sole source of success and that other factors such as E.Q. (emotional intelligence) are equally important for success in life and leadership. Good interpersonal skills are dependent on emotional intelligence and that is why emotional intelligence is as important as intellect. Having an incisive, analytical mind will not make you a good leader; you must also have empathy and understanding of others if you are to lead others.
The most successful and admired leaders are those with good levels of E.Q. who know their own strengths and weaknesses and have mastered their emotions. They have achieved this through genuine self-reflection because they are open to real change and know that change begins within. Those who have mastered themselves through genuine self-improvement are those who are often most suited to building strong relationships with others. They are flexible, can manage ongoing change and are consistent in both behaviour and action
Successful leaders with emotional intelligence are open to new ideas and are constantly learning. They are always looking to improve and they know things can always be better. As they focus on self-improvement they increase their self-awareness but also their awareness of the needs of others. Their genuine self-reflection means they are taking charge of their emotions. Accordingly, they tend to be calm and composed, especially in a crisis. Because they can adapt and adjust they can react to challenging situations with self-control and thereby remain in control.
As such leaders tend not to be impulsive they reach decisions by thinking things out; they are open to consulting with others before they make decisions. They know that being logical and thinking things through is generally more reliable than reacting with gut feeling.
Because leaders with genuine emotional intelligence generally work though problems as best they can, they tend to speak with confidence and can usually inspire confidence in others. They are able to speak with conviction because they have thought about the problem and about the best way forward. They will therefore have a deep understanding of the issue of concern. Because of their knowledge they are deliberate in their actions. They can usually tell a positive story because they have a “can-do” attitude.
They are listened to because they have logical proposals and solutions. Being in control of their emotions they are not prone to emotional responses and are thereby more likely to be trusted and liked. Because they have that likability factor, people will be more amenable to their ideas and suggestions. As a consequence, they will likely inspire their followers. Because they have thought through the problem or issue that will show more determination and resilience when pursuing their objectives. Such leaders tend to be good role models because they are passionate and committed and have that genuine empathy which wins support of others.
If you aspire to be a good leader then that journey begins with introspection and self-evaluation. Your focus will be on how you need to change your behavior and attitude to be the leader you want to be. Know your goal and know the steps you must take to achieve your goal. Observe great leadership role models and evaluate the basis of their success. Select three or four such successful leaders and try to ascertain the personal attributes they have in common. In simple terms, you will note that leaders have followers so try to ascertain why do their followers trust their leaders.
By observing the attributes, behaviour and attitudes of those leaders you admire you should then check how you need to change, enhance or improve your own personal and leadership skills. Inevitably, you will modify your own behaviour and attitude and this demands honesty and perseverance. Mahatma Gandhi once advised; “If you want to change the world, start with yourself.” And again he said;”We must become the change we wish to see in the world”.
When we hear that many leaders are self-made we should be aware of the veracity of that statement. The best leaders were not born with all the attributes required for good leadership; they had to work at perfecting their skills and managing themselves. For them, change and adaption is part of life and leadership.
Good leaders with empathy and emotional intelligence are also good communicators; they are good communicators because they are good listeners. Because they are really present and show genuine interest they can connect really well with colleagues. They are seen to be focused and attentive.As a consequence, they are far more likely to be trusted and respected. This provides such leaders with the opportunity to motivate and inspire those they lead and they will listen because they respect a leader who empathises with them. Empathy deepens relationships, increases collaboration and builds trust.
Empathetic leaders tend to speak from the heart and are passionate in what they believe and about their vision for the future. As they are good “connectors” they tend to be listened to. They will know that the best chance of changing peoples’ minds is by connecting with them from the heart. Leaders with good emotional intelligence can therefore shape their interactions with others. The world certainly needs more leaders who have the self-awareness to lead from their hearts because their concern is about welfare not outputs.
The bond between leaders and followers is greatly enhanced by those leaders who build and develop relationships with those they they lead. Empathy and emotional intelligence are the hallmarks of good leadership. It takes time to develop these traits but by doing so you will become a better person and an even better leader. If change is to begin it must start within and it should start now. Choose to grow and transform and become the kind of leader you want to follow. Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other – John F. Kennedy.
(Feature photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash).