The 3 Secrets of the World’s Most Emotionally Intelligent Leaders
Knowing Thyself is just the beginning.
The mark of every great, emotionally intelligent leader is this: they know themselves in a very meaningful way. Their self-awareness is off the charts. They understand their values, their purpose and how they’re going to succeed. They understand what motivates them, and in turn how to motivate the people they lead. They are masters at building lasting relationships and leading with empathy.
I think back to my first job in management consulting, actually the man that hired me. He let everyone on his team know that he cared about them. He had a very kind, unassuming demeanor, but you always knew that he had your best interest at heart. He had a way of communicating that made you feel relaxed and at ease. He behaved this way toward everyone, never using his title to get his way.
I think of this now in leaders that we see like Satya Nadella at Microsoft. One of the first things that he did when he took over Microsoft in 2014 was to buy his senior leadership team a book called, Nonviolent Communication, by a psychologist, Marshall B. Rosenberg. The goal was to diffuse some of the acrimony and in-fighting at the highest level at Microsoft.
He also asked his team to adopt a “Growth Mindset,” made famous by Dr. Carol Dweck’s work.
These secrets of emotional intelligence are things we don’t always hear about or see in the news. But they’re vital in propelling the organization forward and producing highly successful leaders. Herein are three secrets of the world’s most emotionally intelligent leaders:
1) They listen to the people in their organization
They solicit feedback on what’s working, what’s not, and they make every effort to get better. They also listen with an ear for caring about the lives and welfare of their people. They ask others, “What can we do to get better?” every day. At the heart of their success is empathy. Take this, again, from Satya Nadella via the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania:
“In addition to confidence, a CEO must have empathy, Nadella said. This is a quality one doesn’t typically see on a list of top CEO character traits. But in Nadella’s view, empathy is… a key source of business innovation. He said that although many regard it as a “soft skill,” not especially relevant to the “hard work of business,” it is a wellspring for innovation, since innovation comes from one’s ability to grasp customers’ unmet, unarticulated needs.”
2) They care passionately about their culture
It is another way of saying, they care about their people. Instead of obsessing over marketing and how they’re perceived in the public, they focus on their employees first. They put the needs of their employees first, and lead with authenticity and love. They’re in the business of people because they know that is business at its finest.
They’re self-aware enough to recognize their brand is simply the outward representation of their culture. This is something that Sara Blakley, founder of Spanx, has mastered. She dedicates time for employee development and cares deeply about helping her future leaders reach their biggest goals.
3) They anticipate change and are well prepared
In other words, they have a plan. They’re crystal-clear on their strategy and the fundamentals that lead to a successful business operation: Vision, Purpose, Mission, and Values. They set the bar high for goals. And they can adapt their strategy to the ever-changing market. They’re nimble and flexible.
The late, great founder and CEO of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher, was absolutely brilliant at this. He led the airline to a remarkable streak of profitability — namely, every year of their existence as an organization — because he was very clear about what they were trying to achieve. He was a brilliant businessman who prioritized the company’s culture.
He was able to blend strategy with a business model that gave access to people from all walks of life to fly.
As you grow into becoming the version of the leader you’ve always wanted to be, continue to be mindful of how emotional intelligence can help you reach your goals and positively influence the people around you.