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Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence may be the key to an agile organization

9 September 2022 • by Silke Mischke in Videos

To be an agile leader, you must foster your emotional intelligence. While many executives find it frightening to allow themselves to be emotional in a professional setting, it’s required to have the...

To be an agile leader, you must foster your emotional intelligence. While many executives find it frightening to allow themselves to be emotional in a professional setting, it’s required to have the substantial conversations with your team to solve complex problems and make high quality decisions.

Executives face numerous challenges in today’s unpredictable environment, such as inflation, supply chain disruptions, a workforce that has new demands. In this context it can be very hard to address all of the challenges and be mindful about the wellbeing of self and the team.

According to research emotional intelligence is a key competence in leading effectively and managing the complexity of the current context. Leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence will benefit from understanding quickly the bigger picture by connecting the dots and creating meaningful links with their teams.

I had a great discussion with Philip Holder, author of Discover Your Emotional Intelligence, about how important it is  for today’s leaders to foster their emotional intelligence.

The book addresses many challenges that senior executives and leaders face these days including managing emotions effectively in the workplace and at the same time it gives very pragmatic, tangible advice on how you can work on these skills and make them part of your daily routine and leadership style. I like to call the book a leadership compass for developing your emotional skills.

The book starts with an assessment of 14 emotional skills and then links how these skills translate into concrete leadership behaviors such as influencing others, communication skills, and building connections. As Philip pointed out, for people to get the best out of themselves and their teams it is critical to connect with others.

The pitfalls of the isolated manager

One of the situations people may be familiar with in the workplace is the disconnected manager. A person can have extremely high intellect and well-developed skills for getting a job done, but not have high enough emotional intelligence. In this situation, a manager can only produce limited results. They may be good at certain parts of their job, and highly capable in many ways, but if they lack emotional intelligence, they will start to become isolated, and in that way will only produce limited results. This person’s successes are exclusive to others. If this type of individual must manage other people, they will not be likely to have the important conversations that are necessary to help them grow and develop. Holder calls this the “silent manager”.

Intellect versus emotions

The difference between intellect and emotions is that your rational brain, or intelligence, answers the question “what?” What do we need to get done? What needs to happen? Emotional intelligence answers the question ”how?” Emotions guide how you get things done differently or more effectively. Developing your emotional intelligence will therefore help you make better quality decisions.

During my own research I asked 160 executives how often they included emotions in their decision-making process and only 7 percent said they do it all the time. Roughly 70 percent were below average on this, so it is clear to see that today’s leaders are missing out on a valuable asset in their processes at work. These same executives were able to list a wide range of emotions they witnessed at work, but they were reluctant to consider these as important. What executives need to understand is that emotions allow them to put things in context and have a larger view of what is happening.

Embrace vulnerability

One of the main struggles managers have connecting and building their emotional intelligence is the fear of being vulnerable. People fear it will expose them to criticism, uncomfortable situations, and rejection, but vulnerability is necessary to be a strong leader. According to Holder, the more vulnerable you become, the more you end up being in tune with what is actually going on in your workplace. This is critical awareness in agile leadership.

A state of flow

Holder refers to a “State of flow” as the time when you are present in the moment, and everything is coming together as it should. It is when you are happy, excited and motivated. When you are in a state of flow you are getting the results you need. In sports, this would be the moment when you are getting the goal you need. In other words, it’s where most of us should strive to be when possible. There are four processes involved in getting into your state of flow:

  1. Become centered: this involves making sure your core is working for you. Your core is not just the center of your body, but also the center of your being.
  2. Relax: You cannot be in a state of flow if you are under stress. You need to relax, focus on your breathing; breathe properly from your center.
  3. Lightness: you need to be light. This requires putting things in perspective and lightness of touch. Leadership is about lightness of touch, allowing and enabling your colleagues, not driving them.
  4. Focus: You need to be present in the moment and think about what you want to get out of a situation.

For a business to run smoothly or be an agile business you need emotional intelligence as much as you need rational skills because nothing can be done in isolation. The whole point of agile is you are working on many factors at once. So as Holder says, the first rule of leadership is to get yourself right, and this requires building your EQ.


Silke executive coach

Silke Mischke

IECC Co-Program Director and Senior Executive Coach

She works as a leadership lecturer and senior executive coach. She holds a doctorate in business administration and a master’s degree in Cognitive Psychology. Silke is licensed to administer and interpret several instruments to illuminate individual and group preferences and growth potential. Her coaching and teaching activities cover work with teams and individuals from international organizations.

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