Being an Emotionally Powerful Leader: What Does it Take?

Being a productive and successful leader takes a lot of different skills and abilities. No one can thrive in a leadership position without being adequately equipped with the tools and knowledge to do so. Whether you are still working your way up the professional ladder and looking for guidance, or currently holding a leadership position and looking for ways to improve, emotional intelligence is one of the easiest, most effective, and most important ways to do this. 

In today’s business world, honesty and openness are unexpected from those in charge. Leaders focus on maintaining control through consistency, always keeping up a well-put-together image for their employees to follow. By portraying an impression of themselves as competent, confident, and at all times in-control, a leader can alienate themselves from their employees. Yes, people listen to the strict, straight-forward, emotionless boss, but they only do so out of fear of the repercussions. While it is often true that people will respond to authority and listen to the figures which convey it, this respectful behavior is not then necessarily driven by genuine care for the work they are doing. If you want to truly motivate those around you to want to do their jobs and do them well, you have to set aside the desire for this kind of carefully cultivated front and become more in touch with your emotive abilities. To do this, a leader will need to prioritize their interpersonal relationships with their workers and dedicate their time and effort to building individual connections with people. If you can create and nurture healthy, functional, productive relationships with your subordinates, you will be actively building toward a collective sense of trust, inspiration, and respect. 

By showing empathy in times of need, respect for people’s individuality, and recognition of their talents and potential, you will gain their obedience and respect. Any productive, emotionally healthy relationship relies on it being a two-way street, and a relationship of a professional nature, such as between a leader and their followers, is no different. If your subordinates believe they can trust you, confide in you, rely on you for support, and turn to you when they need you, they will, in turn, feel obliged to do their part for your team. Being well-liked by your employees goes a long way when it comes to inspiring them. When it comes time for them to repay you for this, you will be able to rely on their dedication to their work, their team, and their leader. If you step up for them, they will step up for you.

The critical factor here is motivation. It is a commonly known fact of life that people respond better to positive motivational tools than to the detrimental threat of punishment. The most effective kinds of motivation always come from positive emotional responses, in other words, motivation through inspiration. And how can anyone even begin to inspire themselves and their followers without developing emotional intelligence or awareness? Taking charge of your emotive abilities gives you, as a leader, the power to drive yourself to do your best and motivate those who look up to you to follow suit. Setting an example is the easiest way to encourage those around you to work toward a common goal. Even if some of your workers are purely motivated by their desire to climb the ladder and reach a position of leadership themselves, they will still be primarily modeling their actions and attitudes after those who have already made it, like you. You can directly influence the performance of your subordinates by merely trying to connect with them on a personal level. How much more powerful could your emotions possibly be?

You cannot grow as individuals or as a cooperative whole without embracing your emotional side. Try actively and openly assessing your previous mistakes and failures to understand better how to handle such situations and assignments in the future. It is a seemingly logical, reason-based task, but before you analyze the details of what didn’t work and what you would do differently, you must be able to admit you were wrong in the first place. Through demonstrating this kind of emotional intelligence, you can promote an example of self-awareness to those who look up to you, and encourage them to self-improve.

Being emotionally aware as a leader doesn’t just mean applying your emotive skills to form healthy employee-employer relationships. It also means being able to handle negative emotions when necessary. Sometimes, when you are in a position of leadership, you are responsible for the unfortunate tasks of delivering difficult feedback or even firing someone, and this relies on your (hopefully, now well-cultivated) trusting relationships. These opportunities require a beneficial balance of emotion and reason. You cannot remain entirely detached and leave your employees feeling stranded. You have to show some empathy and be able to rely on an established relationship with the individual to effectively handle such events. However, you can’t let your emotions get the best of you. It’s about balancing your ability to face the hard truths of what is happening and using your connection to the individual, while still being able to focus on the task at hand, which means turning your honesty into frankness, your emotions into awareness, to control the situation.

Despite popular belief, taking advantage of your emotions can be a powerful tool in leading others, when your actions are not driven solely by reason, you are able to adapt to whatever situation you are faced with, whether it’s a daunting assignment, a struggling worker in need of support, or providing constructive criticism. Being emotionally powerful as a leader doesn’t mean setting aside or controlling your emotions; it means understanding, embracing, and applying them situationally to guide others effectively to follow your lead.

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