Leaders have in the past often tried to get by through ignoring their employees’ emotions, but in the modern world attending to emotions needs to be part of a great leader’s skillset.
Report by Moven Dube
Emotions have a profound effect on almost everything we do at the workplace. Emotions (good, upbeat, bad and gloomy) are contagious because they are an open loop system. In business, successful leaders recognise that to be effective, employees, team leaders and managers need to engage not only their heads, but also their hearts.
If people in a team feel that “nobody cares about me,” or “they are really mad at that person over there”, or “they can’t stand the team leader”, they will not contribute their best.
Therefore, performance suffers, be it in sales, production, finance, operations department(s) and marketing. Leaders who believe that people leave their emotions at home when they come to work are not watching out for their blind spot. In other words, such leaders have low emotional intelligence (EQ) and are living in a world that does not exist.
This results in an environment where people are disengaged, and are only achieving a tiny fraction of what would be possible if the right culture were present.
EQ describes the ability, capacity, skill, or self-perceived ability to identify, assess, and manage one’s own emotions, those of others and of groups. People who possess a high degree of emotional intelligence know themselves very well and are also able to sense the emotions of others.
They are affable, resilient, and optimistic (Daniel Goleman 1998). EQ is common sense that is not commonly practised by business leaders. EQ equals twice the indicator of leadership and success as IQ and technical skills combined.
In organisations I have worked for in Zimbabwe and South Africa, leaders who used to propel positive emotions to their team members got the best out of their subordinates, and when they switched to the other side of the coin, performance diminished. A prerequisite for any leader is the ability to work well with people at all levels.
As a leader you set the emotional tone that others follow. According to science, our brains are hardwired to cue in (both consciously and unconsciously) to others’ emotional states.
People want to know how a leader feels and will synchronize with authorities they trust.
Imagine a leader who tells his team members that they are lucky to be working for the company.This is really damaging. Instead of the leader dealing with the underlying problems s/he directly chooses to create dissonance. Such leaders drive people too hard, for the wrong reasons and in the wrong direction. They cause frustration, fear, and antagonism at the workplace but unfortunately, they are often completely unaware of the damage they cause.
I have seen CEOs, directors, senior and middle-level managers hijacked by emotions. They have all been victims of the science of our emotions, sometimes resulting in the destruction of months of dedicated work and well-built reputations.
When you are taken over by your emotions, your credibility and the trust your team has in you is cracked. Some people call it venting, but your subordinates see emotional instability and unreliability in you when under pressure. When you are emotionally hijacked, you lose options. This is very costly.
Resonant leaders trigger positive emotions and energy into team members. This in turn puts people in a state where they can work at their best. In a resonant team, the members vibrate together, so to speak, with positive emotional energy. Over my 24 years of experience in the business world, I have seen most leaders creating dissonance. If only they knew the negative impact of their behaviours and actions on team performance, they would stop or change their ways.
Leaders need to ensure their organisations are set up to get the best out of people and to motivate them, reducing disharmony and creating a resonant culture. They must know themselves and develop their own leadership style.
There are four aspects of EQ: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. According to Daniel Goleman, a leader must use different leadership styles to create resonance. The sum total of positive feeling that a leader has built up is called emotional capital. You build resonance by being visionary, affiliative, democratic and ready to coach. You create dissonance by pacesetting and commanding.
This is a call to Zimbabwean business leaders: Let’s make our workplace great and enjoy the great payoffs from being resonant leaders. Among these benefits are upbeat workers, high morale, higher productivity, fulfilled customers and above all, rising profits.
In the summer of 2006, Talentsmart asked a great question: What is it that business leaders in China are doing that American leaders are not? To answer this question, Talentsmart researchers used a Chinese translation of the American EQ test and tested 3000 top Chinese executives from the public and private sectors, just as they had done with their American counterparts.
The research revealed that the American executive’s average score was 15 points lower in terms of self and relationship management. Chinese use these skills to optimum benefit. EQ is one of the contributing factors to China’s economic business success.
John Kotter put the value of EQ in perspective as follows: “Because of the furious pace of change in business today, difficult-to-manage relationships sabotage more business than anything else – it is not a question of strategy that gets us into trouble; it is a question of emotions.”
The wisdom of being a resonant leader lies within you. Come to the understanding that emotions drive your behaviour, your performance, and they play a significant role in your leadership. Take a class on EQ as a starting point to developing yourself. Emotional competencies are not innate talents, but rather, learned capabilities that must be worked on and developed to achieve outstanding performance.
Dube is the managing consultant of Strategic Learning and Growth Private Business Corporation Zimbabwe.