In times of crisis, we all look to leadership to help us navigate the uncertain road that lies ahead. We need direction and solid guidance, someone in the driver's seat who's able to take charge and weather the storm. A good leader is like an anchor: they might not be able to stop the crisis, but they can keep us grounded until the worst of it passes.
Leaders also need support in times of crisis. Facing unexpected challenges, we have the same reactions as anyone else and hope that we're able to do our best for those around us. It's at this point that we call on our emotional intelligence and social awareness, not only to see others through the storm but also to ground ourselves in the midst of turbulence.
Emotional intelligence has been defined as "the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others." Too often, it's misunderstood to mean "being positive and nice at all times", which can lead to a toxic positivity that restricts crucial decision making and limits the critical thinking needed to tackle difficult circumstances.
According to Daniel Goleman - author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ - having a positive or optimistic outlook is important...but it's just one of 12 components that make up what it means to be emotionally intelligent. In order to manage ourselves as leaders, we need to cultivate the qualities that allow us to effectively manage our emotions, and in turn, help others to manage theirs.
Read More: The Four Pillars of Emotional Intelligence
Image by Colin Behrens from Pixabay
Psychologists have long been aware that, before we can regulate others, we have to first learn to regulate ourselves. In this article, I want to share FIVE of the components of emotional intelligence and how they can help us to manage ourselves in a way that empowers us as leaders to anchor everyone else in challenging times.
What emotions do we experience as leaders? What situations tend to trigger unpleasant emotions? How do we respond to and handle them? Are we able to collect ourselves and connect to others in a calm, collected manner or do we react in an unhelpful way that might unsettle those around us? Having an understanding of our emotions and their triggers can help us to deal with them in a way that's responsive rather than reactive. Even great leaders get angry, frustrated, and annoyed, but they know how to compose themselves and channel that energy productively and with purpose.
Especially in times of crisis, leaders need to be able to make on-the-spot decisions when they're called for. Crises are unpredictable and often unprecedented, and so leaders are required to draw on their experience and wisdom to adapt quickly to change. When times are good, we usually have reference points and protocols that can help us make decisions. Emotionally intelligent leaders are agile and feel comfortable deciding on a course of action, knowing that they can change direction if needed along the way. On the other hand, leaders lacking in emotional intelligence get caught up in analysis paralysis and soon find out that being stuck in a crisis leads to problems that snowball and quickly gather pace.
This is a vital leadership quality at any time, but particularly so in a crisis. When people around us are concerned and feeling unsure about what's coming next, this is where we need to be their anchor. It's not helpful to tell people, "Everything will be fine - no need to worry!" In a crisis, there are plenty of reasons to be worried. It's much better to connect with people's concerns and let them know that you're there for them: "This is a challenging time and I understand your doubts and concerns. Is there anything I can do for you?" Whether this is said to an individual or a team, it shows people that you respect what they're going through and are there to help in whatever way they need.
Coaching and Mentoring
In a crisis, it's often a case of all-hands-on-deck to get through whatever problems and challenges arise. No matter how talented your people are, there will be some things that they'll need help with and, as leaders, it's our job to make sure we guide them through whatever they find unfamiliar. Crises can be traumatic experiences, and so it's important for leaders to take more time to ensure everyone knows what they're being asked to do - and know how to do it. Not only will it lead to necessary tasks being done well, but it will also further demonstrate and give reassurance to people that their leader or boss has their back.
As much as we'd like to think our teams and organisations are well-oiled and cohesive entities, they are made up of individual people and people will have strong disagreements from time-to-time, and more so during a crisis when emotions are running high. While it can be tempting to see conflicts as less important than more pressing matters, leaders should step in as soon as possible, when needed, to manage and resolve conflict - especially when it's requested. If conflicts are left to fester, they can create all kinds of significant-yet-avoidable problems down the line. It's far better to take an hour to manage a conflict than to let it grow and spend a lot more time later on trying to make sense of an issue that's got out of hand. Conflict management can be a difficult experience, but if it's done in the early stages it saves any escalation and a resolution is easier to reach. You'll also show yourself as a leader who's in control, investing in your people, and willing to do what's necessary to get things back on track.
Reposted with permission.
This article is also available in Chinese.
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