Among the many leadership skills entrepreneurs must acquire to lead their teams and effectively grow their ventures is managing complex emotions. Over time, great Leaders master their personal emotions as well as the emotions of the people who contribute to their cause.
Over the last several decades, research has pointed towards emotional intelligence and not IQ as the critical factor that sets great leaders apart from the rest. The challenge with emotional intelligence is that it is intangible, difficult to define and a part of our make up as human beings.
Emotional intelligence affects how we manage our behaviors, navigate complex social experiences, and make calculated decisions to achieve positive results.
The first challenge with learning to manage emotions is properly identifying them, a practice in psychology called labeling. It may seem simple, but the task is much more challenging than it appears. Many people struggle to accurately identity their feelings, and common broad definitions typically fail to accurately encapsulate the diverse emotions individuals experience.
Among the many causes that prevents accurately identifying emotions is emotional suppression, pressures from society and culture, and a lack of emotional awareness and understanding.
Effectively managing complex relationships between colleagues, employees, investors and outside professions demands that entrepreneurs practice emotional agility, a critical element to our human intelligence.
Through emotional agility leaders are able more effectively identify the nuanced complexity of emotions in order to more successfully interact with people, and better manage their personal emotions.
A common challenge leaders face on a daily basis is recognizing when a colleague is experiencing several emotions at once. For instance, an employee outburst may be the result of anger, but it may also have to do with fear, sadness, frustration and disillusionment.
Effectively deconstructing human actions and their underlying emotions is a critical component of not only effectively leading people, but of inspiring them to believe in a cause and getting the most out of them ever day.
When people don’t properly manage their own emotions, or accurately acknowledge the emotions of others, they commonly display lower self-esteem and physical symptoms including stress and anxiety. This stems from a profound misunderstanding of who people are and what drives them to act.
The reality is that there is a high human cost to avoiding our emotions.
Without emotional agility, entrepreneurs can easily mis-manage their relationships, which can have disastrous effects on the long-term success of their business. They are prone to deteriorating valuable professional relationships and typically experience depression and isolation.
But, with the right emotional vocabulary and level of self-awareness entrepreneurs can improve how they process and understand emotional complexities, and develop techniques to effectively address them.
Here, we examine a number of ways entrepreneurs can improve their emotional intelligence to better manage their own emotions, as well as the emotions of people they interact with on a habitual basis.
The practice of improving your emotional intelligence is ultimately about improving the control you have over your reactions to specific situations.
When dissecting the complexity of emotional intelligence, four domains emerge; self awareness, self management, social awareness and relationship management.
Domains of Emotional Intelligence
Within these domains are twelve competences that entrepreneurs can master to improve their emotional self-awareness and control. Entrepreneurs should examine the ares in which they have sturgeon competences and work on the areas where they are week.
Each competence is crucial to effectively leading a business over time, and require constant proactive engagement. Improvement will only come through practice.
If you recognize an area where you are weak, challenge yourself to activity practice it and seek the input of trusted confidants to determine whether or not you are making improvements.
To facilitate your efforts to improve your emotional intelligence, consider practicing the following three practical insights; expand your emotional vocabulary, practice compassion, and record your emotional experiences in writing.
Expand Your Emotional Vocabulary
Words can have a powerful effect on people, and emotional experiences merit discovering ways to effectively define them.
Whenever your need to define an emotion, consider categorizing the feeling of feelings into negative and positive emotions. Once you have identified the emotion try to describe in in two or more words that effectively encapsulates the feeling.
Here is a common list of emotional terms categorized in broad feelings:
Leaders should recognize that It is much more powerful and honest to describe how they are feeling in specific detail. The practice helps illuminate emotions, define underlying intentions and improves the mutual-understanding between people, which serves to strengthen relationships.
To build upon effectively describing your emotions with a rich vocabulary, practice compassion with they ways in which you describe your emotions to others. Recognize the powerful effect explaining your emotional state can have on the people around you.
Being compassionate in this context means thinking about how the person receiving your emotional statement will process and respond to your emotion. Compassion means putting others first and recognizing that the most important thing is maintaining a healthy relationship with the individual or group.
The goal, particularly in business is to maintain a rewarding, positive and efficient relationships. Happy, content and relaxed employees are much more efficient than angry or nervous ones.
Take for example how many times people who are upset about a particular circumstance will describe their emotional state as “angry”. In some circumstances the word is appropriate, however, jumping to the term “angry” too often will produce emotional responses that reflect the same emotion.
To avoid this generic pitfall, examine whether your emotion truly is anger, or if it really is impatience, annoyance, dismay, annoyance or discomfort. These terms are far more specific than “angry”, and will more effectively communicate your state of being and intentions to friends, colleagues, staff and even family.
If you have trouble effectively processing and explaining your emotions to others consider rating them on a scale of 1 to 10.
Entrepreneurs should remember that individual people will perceive the same situation differently, because they are innately different. The critical takeaway is not so much about being right or wrong, it is about understanding the impact of each other’s emotional perceptions and how to manage them.
A practical way to discover whether or not you are productively communicating your emotions is asking a trusted confidant the following two questions:
What is my reputation as a communicator?
How would you describe my deign making process, and how would you say my emotions affect that process?
Receiving the answers to these questions will illuminate how others perceive your leadership and communication qualities.
And, deconstructing the responses will enhance your emotional awareness and improve your understanding of people whose perspective and opinions may differ from your own.
Put It Into Writing
Lastly, a very effective way to process emotions is to write them down. Leaders who habitually write about their emotionally charged experiences can improve how they process their emotions, and manage how they respond to them.
The practice of writing down emotional experiences can also improve your ability to discover insightful solutions to better manage and learn from your feelings. Through writing, entrepreneurs can gain greater clarity of their emotional state of being and control how they affect their decision making processes.
To gain greater mastery over your emotions, consider adopting the following technique on a daily basis, or when you are experiencing emotional challenges.
Set 20-30 minutes aside with no distractions
Begin by identifying the causes of your current emotional state.
For each cause define in clear terms your emotional reaction and response.
Analyze whether or not your emotional response was productive.
Explore ways you would respond differently reliving the experience was possible.
Examine the differences between how you responded, and how you would prefer to respond to the same experience.
Lastly, define several practical ways you aim to improve your emotional responses in the future.
Don’t fret about grammar or readability, this is a therapeutic exercise, not a literary one.
By understanding emotions with this level of precision, entrepreneurs can meaningfully improve their ability to control and manage their feelings in emotionally tough situations.
Overtime, you can achieve a higher level of self-awareness to keep your emotions in check no matter the circumstance. The benefit is cultivating a more objective perspective to managing the complex challenges of leading a business.
Qualities of Emotional Intelligent Leaders
Individuals with high emotional intelligence are able to benefit in three main areas; they identify their own emotions as well as those of others, they harness their emotions to apply them to problem solving tasks, and they effectively manage them to improve their emotional balance.
Maintaining a emotional balance is important particularly for entrepreneurs because the journey of building a business is full of dramatic ups and downs.
Emotional intelligence keeps founders grounded and focused on objectively processing the volume of information that propels their business on a daily basis.
Leaders with high emotional intelligence commonly display the following character traits:
Leaders with high emotional intelligence are not perfectionists because the negative trait can get in the way of completing tasks and achieving goals in a timely manner. They realize that perfection is a misplaced illusion, and an emotionally charged one.
Instead emotionally intelligent leaders push forward no matter the obstacle. When mistakes are made they learn from them, adapt, and they never take it personally.
Leaders who are emotionally intelligent understand that human beings are complex creatures who need to practice balance between their work and personal life. The primary goal of balance is to reduce stressful inputs that can be emotionally taxing.
Effective leaders know when they need to disconnect to clear their mind and achieve greater zen, which enables them to more efficiently manage their business.
Entrepreneurs who display high emotional awareness understand that change is a part of life. They recognize that change is the only constant and instead of being afraid of change they embrace its qualities and adapt to whatever may happen. Emotionally intelligent leaders have an open mind and always possess a flexible plan of attack.
Individuals with emotional intelligence don’t allow themselves to become distracted by their emotions or their surroundings. They remain focused on executing their vision in the most efficient way possible. They focus on the immediate task, and stay committed to their vision.
5. Thick Skinned
Entrepreneurs with high emotional awareness are typically very confident and open-minded people who are not easily offended. They don't let criticism affect their work or vision, and are even able to poke fun at themselves because they easily recognize the distinction between humor and degradation.
Leaders who display a high level of emotional intelligence easily relate to others, exercise compassion in their actions, and take to the time to help others when they are in need. Practicing empathy encourages entrepreneurs to be curious of others.
Emotionally intelligent leaders ask relevant questions about their colleagues, they actively seek to identify the emotional intentions of the people around them.
7. Character Judges
Displaying a high level of emotional intelligence is linked to a possessing a high level of social awareness. Emotionally intelligent leaders are able to easily read people.
Overtime, leaders become exceptional judges of character, capable of quickly identifying the emotions and motivations of the people around them, even if they are trying to hide their feelings.
8. Limit Stimulants
Leaders with emotional intelligence recognize the powerful affects stimulants have on their emotions and proactively seek ways to limit their influence.
Stimulants trigger the release of adrenaline which is the primary source of the fight-or-flight response, which has the adverse affect of increasing stress and reducing rational thinking.
Emotionally intelligent entrepreneurs have an objective opinion of their own strengths and weaknesses, and proactively work towards realistic goals. They are able to leverage their qualities by working with talented people who complement their temperament and abilities.
A crucial character trait of emotionally intelligent leaders is their motivation to achieve short and long-term objectives. Ambition plays an important role in ignoring the emotional ups and downs of entrepreneurship and helps leaders remain focused on their end goal.
Entrepreneurs with high emotional intelligence recognize the importance of focusing on the positive aspects of life because it helps them devote their time and energy to problem solving.
Emotionally intelligent leaders effectively neutralize toxic influences with rational thinking and action. They focus on what they can control, including their emotions, and surround themselves with other positive people who can empower them.
Emotionally intelligent leaders don’t dwell on the past or on negative experiences. They are focused on the challenges and possibilities of the future and don’t let negative thinking or grudges deter their actions.
Emotional intelligent leaders know when and were to set clear emotional boundaries. They know when to say no and when to say yes, which prevents them form becoming overwhelmed, burned out, and stressed because of overcommitting to too many objectives.
Instead, these leaders embrace the power of “no” so that they can focus on completing more important and rewarding commitments.
Emotionally intelligent leaders find ways to disconnect from technology to give their mind a break from the myriad of information stimulants, particularly email which encourages the unrealistic expectation that they should be available 24 hours a day.
Most importantly, intelligent leaders always get enough sleep.
Leaders with emotional intelligence proactively stop melancholy and separate negative thoughts from facts in order to escape cycles of depression. They focus on the maintaining a positive outlook of themselves because it is the surest way to actualize their vision.
Lastly, emotionally intelligent leaders proactively contribute to others without expecting anything in return. Entrepreneurs who always think of others leave a powerful impression and the practice helps them build stronger relationships with partners, colleagues, staff.
These leaders always appreciate what they have, and reflect on the things that they are grateful for because it improves their mood, energy levels, and physical well-being.
Practicing these qualities can meaningfully enhance your emotional intelligence to more effectively manage your personal emotions and lead your business towards successful outcomes.
Naturally, the challenge is balancing them all in an effective way.
To help your efforts consider setting time aside during the week to reflect on your emotions, your actions and your objectives.
Everything in your life is intertwined, and with greater self-awareness you can improve your mastery over your emotions, over yourself and your goals.
Downsides of Emotional Intelligence
While there are many qualities of cultivating character traits that frame emotional intelligent leaders, entrepreneurs should be aware of several negative side-effects.
1. Low Creativity
Creativity and innovation are sometimes negatively correlated with individuals who possess high emotional intelligence because many of the most insightful solutions come from negative observations of life, experiences and influences.
Creativity often demands an erratic lifestyles to illuminate new ideas and perspectives.
2. Difficulty offering feedback
Leaders who possess to much emotional intelligence are sometimes at a disadvantage when they are required to deliver critical or negative feedback to others. The compassionate side of high emotional awareness can make delivering bad news difficult.
The level-headed and calm demeanor of emotionally intelligent leaders also makes them susceptible to indifference towards negative feedback they might receive.
3. Avoiding Conflict
Being a leader often involves making unpopular choices about the direction of the company, and the people involved in the business. Entrepreneurs with high emotional awareness are prone to avoiding conflict with others in the workplace.
They sometimes fail to effectively make definitive decisions that bring about change at the expense of employee relations. To pursue growth and innovation demands that entrepreneurs make unpopular and sometimes misunderstood decisions.
Too much emotional intelligence mixed with greed and ambition will result in a leader who manipulates the people around them. The risk of manipulating your partners, colleagues and employees is that should they discover your bad intentions, their emotional response will undoubtably be negative. Leaders who manipulate risk finding themselves isolated, and no one can operate a company alone.
5. Risk Aversion
The last negative consequence of too much emotional intelligence is an aversion to risk taking. High emotional awareness is often associated with high levels of conscientiousness, which makes leaders more likely to resit impulse decisions that could be missed opportunities.
Too many measured decisions and self control can in pair a company’s ability to innovate quickly enough to keep up with market changes. Risk aversion breeds counterproductive perfectionism.
As with all things, it is important to practice the qualities of emotional intelligence in moderation to avoid these negative side effects.
As with a great many things in life, understanding is the path to mastery. When leaders are able to effectively address, deconstruct, analyze and understand their emotions they are better positioned to control their feelings and recognize how they affect the people around them.
By recognizing emotional patterns entrepreneurs can develop techniques to improve their emotional responses, which can be immensely helpful when manage complex and stressful situations at work and at home.
Moreover, become emotionally intelligent is a rewarding exercise because it will improve your ability to more efficiently manage your business and all of the people involved in it.
It is also a highly useful skill when negotiating with investors and potential partners. In these circumstances concealing your innermost feelings can be the difference between successfully reaching an agreement an negotiating terms.
Developing emotional intelligence allows leaders to exercise greater control over themselves, over their colleagues, and over their business.
And, with greater control, they are able to achieve greater power.
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