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The Heart of Leadership; Emotional Effectiveness in Action

My consulting palette includes Career Transition work, and I’m heartened to say I’ve been inspired many times in the last year by senior managers in job search. Part of the process is to invite candidates to explore and tell their success stories; what makes them unique and valuable. More and more, I hear effective leaders stake deep claims in their passion for genuinely connecting with the people they lead, and striving to provide an environment that encourages those individuals to be authentic; work effectively with others and do their jobs in the most intimately purposeful and creative ways – for them. I’ve actually been known to tear up a little bit and beam an irrepressible smile, as I listen. It’s pure music to my “EQ” orientation.

What these men and women describe as they speak is their demonstration of two vital aspects of Emotional Intelligence. They know how their behavior affects others, and they know that respecting and encouraging their staff provides the stable ground for exceptional work. The results these executives highlight on their resumes are the clear product of their emotional maturity and depth.

Knowing how our behavior affects others is rooted in “Emotional Self Awareness” (one of the 15 subscales of the EQ2.0 Emotional Intelligence assessment). The title of this particular subscale might get a “Duh!” or a “Touchy feely!” response, but a close and personal look at this aspect of our competencies is definitely “not for sissies.”

This factor is at the very root of the subtlest of our behaviors. In fact it’s key to feeling empathy for others. Psychologists see emotional self-awareness as the basis of “Theory of Mind” – or the ability to discern or imagine how others feel (what impacts and motivates them). When you really take the time to notice what tweaks your nose and drives your actions on a moment to moment basis, you quickly learn to enhance your self-empathy to survive what you get to see. That’s a good thing – because self-empathy is the foundation for true empathy for others. Empathy for others is the key to genuine leadership.

Through Emotional Self Awareness as their foundation, my savvy clients are able to provide the ground for excellent results from the people they lead. That ground is genuine relationship. We’ve heard it from several sources over time – Maslow cited the human psychological need for “safety, belonging, and self-esteem,” David Rock (leading psychologist/neuroscientist/leadership expert) calls it “certainty, status, relationship” – ultimately what people need to effectively navigate the challenges of work and life.

It’s easy to scoff at “safety” and “certainty.” We all recognize that everything is speeding up, change is constant, goals are ambiguous, jobs are dispensable; clearly “safety and certainty” are illusions. There seems to be no ground on which to establish the environment for excellent work.

But my friends did it. And if you ask them, they’ll tell you they did it by “giving a damn” about the people they led to the degree that they examined and understood the effect of their own feelings and behaviors on others. They found that by providing unconditional respect, clear communication and a genuine interest in the welfare of their associates they established a viable experience of safety and security. They found it was work worth doing.

Certainly losing your job is disorienting proof of “no certainty.” If it’s ever happened to you, you may have been shocked by the amount of feeling you had about it. Yet I’ve observed “a million times” that even in such a life changing situation – if the separation is communicated with dignity, acknowledgment and genuine connection, the person being let go has the energy, esteem, and sense of continuity to move on with little regret. Great leaders like my recent clients not only provide those qualities, they embody them and carry them forward. They recognize them as the very heart of leadership.

Steve Whiteford

About Steve Whiteford

Steve founded Whiteford Resources in 1989 with the vision of assisting individuals and organizations to achieve their highest potential for effective, dynamic communication. Steve has fifteen years as a performer, director, and coach in the entertainment industry and has incorporated his avid study of human potential, neuroscience and transformational processes into over twenty years of practical application within business environments. He specializes in Leadership Development, Executive Presence, Emotional Intelligence EQ-i 2.0, and is Master Certified in MBTI. He has recently completed Results Coaching certification with NeuroLeadership Institute, Steve receives excellent reviews as a Speaker, Trainer, Facilitator and Coach.

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