Approaching Leadership from the Inside Out

Originally published in Independent Banker

Science is still expanding our understanding of human consciousness through groundbreaking discoveries in quantum and now qualia physics, but one thing is clear:  we are more than just our mental prowess. We are thinking, feeling beings who can create toxic climates or thriving workplaces by how we choose to show up and lead.

How can community bank leaders reduce dysfunction and inspire their teams to reach the next level of success? The answer is emotional intelligence, a subject in leadership circles at every level of business today.

What is EQ?

The term “emotional intelligence” or “EQ” was coined in 1990 in a research paper by two psychology professors, Peter Salovey of Yale University and John D. Mayer of the University of New Hampshire. While some popular definitions of EQ focus on qualities like optimism, initiative and self-confidence, this is misleading. In his 2004 Harvard Business Review article, “What Makes a Leader,” science journalist Daniel Goleman said that emotional intelligence comprises skills in five areas that all require specialized communications skills, using the inner voice, outer action or both:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation (defined as “a passion for work that goes beyond money and status”)
  • Empathy for others
  • Social attunement, such as proficiency in managing relationships and building networks

Stronger leadership begins within

The human brain is like a computer. EQ helps us see where we’ve allowed our operating system to run on autopilot and reminds us we are all master programmers. We can learn new skills and overwrite old programs in the brain that aren’t serving us or our teams.

So, what does this look like in the real world?

Consider Joanne, who works hard and is chronically busy. She finds it easy to fall into a pattern of complaining about the things that are bothering her or aren’t the way she wants them to be. There’s nothing wrong with a good venting—in fact, it’s very healthy—but Joanne gets stuck in a negative spiral, dragging down the entire team with negativity that can create a toxic environment quickly. The pattern is one that Joanne has the ability to change by practicing A.I.R.:

Step 1: Awareness 

First, notice something important is happening—you’re upset. (Use Step 2 to get a better handle on a productive next step.)

Step 2: Inquiry

Take a deeper look at the situation. Ask yourself: What’s going on here for me? What story am I telling myself? What’s really true here? (Now you’re ready for Step 3.)

Step 3: Response 

Recognize you have 100 percent ability to respond to your upsets in any way you choose. How could you turn this complaint into a request?

EQ doesn’t take more effort. It takes more wisdom. Practiced across a team, A.I.R. reverberates throughout an organization, bringing more inspired ideas and solutions than management ever thought possible. As the American economy’s backbone, who better than community bankers to take a leadership role in a whole new way of being at work?

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