Leading in Tempestuous Times with the Power of Emotional Intelligence

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Leading through tempestuous times
Finally, “Change is the new normal” has transitioned from being a platitude to a reality.

Leaders today have an arduous job to navigate and lead in the context of constantly shifting political dynamics, volatile markets, disruptive technologies, layoffs, or even wars.

What is even more problematic is not knowing how any event in any part of the globe could have a domino effect on a specific industry or company.

In the current unpredictable environment, incessant uncertainty and anxiety are almost par for the course in you and your team.

According to a study by Gallup, 44% of employees reported they experienced severe anxiety at work in the past year.

In numerous coaching sessions with leaders across industries, conducted by coaches at InspireOne, leaders have spoken about increased stress levels, and pressure to meet targets while being undecided about what the long-term strategies should be anchored to. To add to this load, there is the need to keep their teams buoyant and resilient.

It’s almost like leaders need to have superpowers. Luckily, one such superpower does exist. It has been latent and its time to discover and use it.

When times are tempestuous, emotions run high. People are moving from one strong emotion to another rapidly. And thus, the superpower of Emotional Intelligence becomes an essential for leaders to navigate through adversity with equanimity.

InspireOne has worked with leaders across industries and conducted research on the role of emotional intelligence in managing uncertainty and adversity. Our Personal Emotional Quotient Meter™, (a reliable and validated self-assessment tool) measures emotional intelligence on five core areas defined by Daniel Goleman – self-awareness, self-management, self-motivation, social awareness, and social skills. PEQM dives deep into the 15 components related to the 5 areas which can provide actionable insights.

The results clearly indicate how the emotional intelligence scores on various components either enable leaders to lead effectively in current times or create barriers for their leadership effectiveness.

Inspire One’s study on Emotional Intelligence in Indian Managers reports that Indian Managers and leaders score high in areas like – objectivity, stress management and group orientation.

High scores in these components can enable leaders to process situations objectively, and manage their own stress reasonably well (though may not extend to being able to help their teams to manage stress).

High group orientation suggests that those leaders can put team and organisational agenda front-and-centre of their focus and efforts. They, therefore, may not be focussing energies to further their personal agendas.

However, the findings from the same research indicate 3 components, in which Indian managers displayed somewhat low scores namely – self-expression, optimism and contentment.

We believe these three areas are equally critical for a leader in the context of tempestuous times.

Leaders need to demonstrate optimism during times of crisis. A meta-analysis study on leadership traits shows that positivity was a key factor in successful leadership. Contentment – the ability to create enjoyment, interest and energy in everyday life is critical for optimism and achievement drive, both of which are needed to deal with adversity.

Leadership is about self-expression and not about proving yourself. High Self-Expression indicates a leader’s ability to put forth their point of view confidently, cogently, and amenably with a view to create alignment, buy-in and inspiration toward solving a problem or implementing plans.

Good self-expression is not about pushing forth your point of view forcefully and expecting people to fall in line, without any buy-in.

Business Thinker, Adam Grant, on talking about “Modern Leadership” said – “a leader who is unable to express themselves and who never shows any emotion is incapable of connecting to the challenges of the moment.”

The good news is Emotional intelligence, unlike IQ, is not fixed and can be developed. So, let’s drill down on how to build these areas to lead effectively in these tough times.

How can Optimism and Positivity be unlocked?

By using the tool of reframing Learned Hopefulness
You acknowledge your negative thoughts and challenge them. Leaders must not see the crisis as something that will break things down but see it as an opportunity to grow. To believe tomorrow can be better than today and proactively work towards it. Learned hopefulness is a concept given by Dr. Dan Tomasulo, about practicing hopefulness intentionally to induce positivity.

By building a paradox mindset
To survive in times of crisis one needs to strike a balance between optimism and pragmatism. A leader must face brutal facts about the situation and maintain faith that one can prevail, believing one can find equanimity in the chaos.

By practicing Awe
Giving full and undivided attention to something good – appreciating and valuing things – induces awe and positivity.

Following the 4 principles of self-control – knowing your purpose, managing your emotions, managing your energy, and time
Keeping a razor-sharp view of your vision can help you find meaning in the most difficult times can help you build optimism.

A leader is managing two worlds – one is a world of facts & another world of heart/feelings. It is important to establish a balance between the tangibles and the intangibles that drive results. So, it is not only important to just set the right objectives and vision for your team but also to set the right tone, positive energy, and mood for them.

Developing the right self-expression?

Being an authentic leader and having respect for self & others is the steppingstone towards self-expression. There is strength in expressing yourself, your vulnerabilities, being transparent about the facts of an adverse situation.

There is courage in vulnerability. Famous author Brene Brown in her book “Daring” talks about vulnerability in leadership – The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.

And hence it becomes necessary for leaders to be vulnerable during tough times – be it when it comes to communicating positive news about how well the company is doing or announcing difficult layoffs by being transparent with their teams.

A leader must give themselves permission to be vulnerable while also being positive, hopeful, pragmatic, and inspirational about future efforts and outcomes.

We also conducted a webinar on “Leading Through Tempestuous Times” where we discussed the guidelines to become an emotionally intelligent leader. You can watch the recording here.


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