EQ and Leadership

City managers are responsible for influencing the strategic direction of the city to fulfill the long-term goals and plans of the community-at-large. It is therefore important for us to develop the skills to effectively lead at all levels of personnel and within multiple departments of the city’s organization.

John Maxwell defines effective leadership as the ability to influence others to achieve a predetermined goal and an important element of leadership is one’s emotional intelligence. The skills associated with emotional intelligence can be significant contributors in developing effective and productive relationships with the staff, stakeholders, and officials that are critical to the continued and future success of the city.

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is defined as one’s ability to recognize and understand emotions in self and others, and one’s ability to use this awareness to manage one’s behavior and relationships. EQ includes the understanding of one’s impact on others and adjusting one’s leadership style accordingly.

Underlying this concept is the reality that one is not at the same leadership level with every person they encounter nor does he or she stay at the same level when changing positions or organizations. It is for this reason that EQ relies on four key and complimentary skill sets: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and relationship management.

Self-awareness is in part, learning one’s strengths and weaknesses, asking others for feedback, and learning how you think, feel, and act in a variety of situations. Individuals with a high sense of self-awareness have “a clear understanding of what they do well, what motivates and satisfies them, and which people and situations push their buttons.” This self-awareness is “critical to understanding how you feel before you react so not to regret your actions but to act in a way to resolve the situation.”

While self-awareness provides a greater understanding of how we relate to the world, it also helps us understand why people relate to us the way they do. It gives us better judgment and the clarity to understand and gain insight into those around us.

The second EQ skill, self-management, is the ability to use self-awareness of one’s emotions to stay flexible and direct one’s behavior in a positive and influential way. This awareness of one’s thoughts can shape behavior and help when relating to others. Understanding our own motivations can help us better appreciate the challenges others face.

The social awareness EQ skill requires listening and observing in order to accurately pick up on others emotions and to perceive what they are thinking and feeling.  Stephen Covey’s fifth habit in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People supports empathetic listening by first seeking to understand. To better understand a person emotionally as well as intellectually, one needs to see the world as they see it. This is accomplished by listening with one’s ears, watching body language, and listening with one’s heart to better understand how other people feel.

The fourth skill in EQ, relationship management, is really a composite of the first three EQ skills. The primary goal of this skill is to build solid long term relationships based understanding, respect, and shared history. It is about using your EQ self-awareness skills to help you understand yourself and if your needs are being met, your self-management skills to help you express your feelings and act accordingly to benefit the relationship, and your social awareness skills to help you better understand the other person’s needs and feelings.

The likelihood of successful leadership significantly increases while continuously developing emotional intelligence skills. When the critical emotional intelligence skills of engaging, listening, and understanding others while understanding oneself are nurtured and developed, individuals can create the opportunity to influence the contributions of others, thus increasing production while creating long lasting relationships.

Emotional intelligence is best described as the act of knowing, understanding, and responding to emotions, overcoming stress in the moment, and being aware of how your words and actions affect others. This awareness, when combined with a desire to improve and grow, will contribute significantly to the development of the natural leadership characteristics and traits that are key to the continued success of an effective leader and city manager.

(Article submitted by Cyndy Powell, Associate, The Management Connection, Inc. If you have interesting news or helpful topics to share, please submit them to Kim Pendergraft at [email protected]. Please keep the information to fewer than 300 words.)