Emotional intelligence is about recognizing thoughts and feelings without becoming overwhelmed by them. It’s a proactive versus a reactive approach to self-awareness that is essential for good leaders to master. But how do they do it? There are several ways, but I’d like to provide a few simple guidelines to start your journey toward self-awareness.
What do self-aware people look like? Well, they’re observant. Both keenly aware of their surroundings and able to sense the emotional temperature of others. Self-aware leaders don’t read minds, they read body language and key indicators that demonstrate burnout or disconnectedness in others. Most importantly, self-aware leaders are servants leaders. They have “skin in the game”. How do we learn this skill? By practicing it in our relationships.
Here are a few strategies for building self-awareness:
Know when to tell yourself “no”
A good leader knows his/her limits, because the top enemy is always burnout. When we let our ambition and pace run wild, we get sloppy and make mistakes. I understand this challenge. There are so many things to get done that sometimes we don’t regulate our pace appropriately. It’s dangerous. There are many competing priorities that vie for your attention each day. Saying yes to too many good things can lead to a host of problems. Fight the urge to be impulsive. The best leader knows when to hit the breaks as well as pump the gas. We’re not good at gauging our own capacity and weariness. We need people of courage in our lives to help us properly gauge our true capacity and if we are driving ourselves too hard.
Notice things outside of yourself
Be observant of other key members of your team. What is their emotional state? You can measure it in a conversation, in the mood at your last meeting, with a question to gain feedback, there are countless ways! Seek this kind of measurement before something goes wrong. Don’t wait to take constructive criticism from your team before it’s too late.
Deepen your self-knowledge
Know thyself! As the infamous Dr. Seuss once said, “There’s no one you’er than you.” What does that mean? This is more than discovering your tastes, but your triggers, the things that stress you out, calm you down, put you over the edge, and how to manage those things. Are you getting too uptight? Have you worked out lately? What’s your diet like? Are you lethargic towards best practices in your life? Are you cautions down? These are all questions that can lead to a deeper understanding of how to manage your emotions. Remember that physical indicators can lead to an understanding of deeper emotional causes. It’s not about putting bandaids on issues, it’s about boiling down to the root problem. A powerful practice that brings us to a place of greater self-knowledge is journaling. Journaling can bring us a great deal of clarity. There is something powerful about a pen and paper in our hands in this digital age. Try it!
Keep negative influences at a distance.
Nothing will spoil your momentum faster than a naysayer. Watch out even for the enlightened naysayer who calls himself a “realist.” A good leader lives in the balance between a visionary and a revolutionary. The visionary is the “thinker” and the “revolutionary” is the doer. You need both sides to lead others. You have dreams to chase and strategies to get you there! Work to balance your leadership with both influences and root out the negative voices among you. And remember wise council from an accountability partner or friend is not a negative influence but rather life giving – no matter how difficult it may be to swallow.
To our emotional health,