Last semester, I was happy to complete Strengths Finders 2.0, an approach to embracing your strengths instead of trying to overcome things that do come as naturally to you. There was one key finding in this exercise that has changed my outlook on my personal leadership philosophy and my general philosophy about how I interact with others. The finding was that I have empathy as one of my top five strengths. In the explanation of what empathy is, the book stated: “You do not necessarily condone the choices each person makes, but you do understand. This instinctive ability to understand is powerful. You hear the unvoiced questions. You anticipate the need. Where others grapple for words, you seem to find the right words and the right tone. You help people find the right phrases to express their feelings — to themselves as well as to others. You help them give voice to their emotional life. For all these reasons other people are drawn to you.” This information, as well as supplemental information from the book, has helped me to get a better grasp on the way I feel and understand what is happening around me. I no longer think about taking on the emotions of others as something that limits me from being a leader; instead, I now embrace these strength and think about how it can help to set my leadership apart.
These emotion-centered themes came to mind again as I was reading Chang, Sy, and Choi’s 2012 Article from Small Group Research, entitled “Team Emotional Intelligence and Performance: Interactive Dynamics between Leaders and Members.” This article examined how the emotional intelligence (EI) of leaders and team members influences team outcomes. The authors posit that leaders with high EI may be able to foster an emotionally intelligent environments for their teams, minimize process loss, develop trusting relationships, communicate a compelling vision, and create supportive team environments. Likewise, on The Sales Blog, Anthony Iannarino makes connections between empathy to emotional intelligence, citing that they are both centered around your ability to connect to those around you. As it turns out, empathy is a core part of emotional intelligence. When one is empathetic, you are able to experience the emotions of another person. If you have high emotional intelligence, you are able to then take these emotions and manage them to create positive results. Iannarino suggests, “You see the twin attributes of empathy and emotional intelligence in the salesperson’s ability to lead and orchestrate their own team to create a positive outcome for their clients, paying attention others’ needs. In broader leadership terms, empathy and emotional intelligence allows for greater opportunity to accurately assess the emotional needs of your followers and fellow team members, at which point you can orchestrate a strategy for creating a positive atmosphere. This type of atmosphere makes positive outcomes all the more likely.
Learning about empathy gave me a lot of consider, but coupling it with a broader look at the other facets of emotional intelligence gives me even more to think about. As Daniel Goleman points out, “all leadership is relational” and, “The best leaders help other people get and stay in the best emotional state to work at their best.” For me, it is no longer enough to learn to embrace my natural strength of empathy. I must also keep in mind that managing my emotions and the emotions of those who look to me as a fellow team member or as a leader will be key to overall success.