If we want to be effective leaders, we need to consider the symptoms of leadership excellence as well as the attributes that drive it. Think about the best boss you’ve ever had. Consider for a moment their characteristics and your own mindset during the time you worked for them. It is a near certainty that the following dynamics were present, in that this leader…
- Cultivated a sense of shared vision around organizational/team objectives
- Led by example
- Was accessible
- Was respectful of team members
- Cultivated trust and loyalty among team members
These represent symptoms of effective leadership. But how do we get there? What do we need to be “that boss?” Success in any role requires a multi-dimensional set of skills, but for leaders, emotional intelligence (EQ) seems to be a driving force, if not the driving force for excellence.
In a recent LinkedIn article, Why Your Boss Lacks Emotional Intelligence, best-selling author Dr. Travis Bradberry cites fascinating correlations between EQ levels and leadership performance. To put the EQ factor in perspective, Bradberry’s research of a million-plus person database revealed that, regardless of one’s level in the organization, the top performers were those with the highest EQ scores.
The other significant learning was that EQ levels increase as you move from the bottom of the organization up to the middle management level. “But things change drastically as you move beyond middle management,” writes Bradberry. “For the titles of director and above, scores descend faster than a snowboarder on a black diamond.”
So we know that EQ is a significant factor for top performing leaders. Are we destined to lose our EQ as we rise through the organization? Bradberry points out that as leaders get promoted, their environment can erode EQ. Less time is spent in meaningful interactions with staff and, as such, awareness of the team suffers. Once a leader is out of touch, he/she tends to stay out of touch. While we may be at risk for declining EQ as we move up through the ranks, our emotional intelligence is one factor completely within our own control, and therefore within our ability to buck this trend.
To boost your EQ, communicate, communicate, communicate! And by “communicate,” the emphasis should be on listening versus talking. Just as sales professionals need exemplary listening skills to understand their customers’ needs and motivations, leaders need those same skills and that same insight to cultivate long-term, productive relationships with team members. Effective listening skills allow us to understand and acknowledge other people’s feelings – a key to making team members feel valued and validated!
Think, again, about the best boss you’ve ever had. Can you recognize the role of EQ and communication skills in his/her leadership excellence?