“A leader is someone who can get things done through other people.”Warren Buffett
For the past year, this is a topic very present in my mind. I know from experience that a title doesn’t make a leader, and I also know that just because you were promoted to be a Leader, it doesn’t mean that others would want to follow you.
In any business climate, good leadership is perhaps the most important competitive advantage a company can have, and I believe emotional intelligence (EQ) is a huge part of it. Having a high degree of EQ allows you to control your thoughts, think about your feeling, create a pause, benefit from criticism, and apologize when needed. This may seem like more than enough qualities to be a followed leader, but I believe that EQ alone is not enough, and I believe that to be a well-rounded leader, you must also possess the following qualities: being humble, courageous, trustworthy, inclusive, and empowering.
I have, on numerous occasions, heard that these traits make me weak. I couldn’t disagree more, and I believe this is the new way of leading not only millennials but also other generations that are used to being told what to do with complete disregard for their well-being.
I’ve been on a spiritual path for a few years now, and it has only reinforced what I already believe, mindfulness and kindness need to be a part of absolutely everything you do. I believe this to be true for my help desk technician, my programmer, my manager, and everyone in between. We can all be leaders if we want to, and it doesn’t only happen at the highest levels. I have seen how this new way of thinking and being is starting to spread and it is up to this new generation to help us continue this momentum and break all the conditioned behaviors that no longer serve any of us.
For me, the fact that I am an empath, which is defined as “a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual,” made it very difficult for me to be around people but also meant it was natural for me to feel empathy for others. I have the natural capacity to understand and feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference. One of the reasons why I constantly encourage people to take EQ training is that it helps you handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. I can see companies shifting from hiring highly technical individuals into making sure we hire individuals that demonstrate a high EQ instead.
Since EQ alone is not enough, here are the qualities I believe we all need to develop to become a leader people want to follow:
A humble leader acknowledges that the only way to succeed is with the help of others. I am never afraid to acknowledge that I don’t know something or to admit to a mistake I made. Followers want their leaders to show genuine compassion for them, and I don’t see how we can grow if we are constantly hiding the fact that we are humans, and as such, imperfect. I have seen that when people feel as if someone cares, not only are they more engaged and productive, but they’ll stay around longer.
A leader that can tackle the difficult tasks instead of avoiding them, or delegating them to someone else earns the respect of others. I don’t allow society to put me into boxes, and setting huge goals is one of the ways I develop my courage muscle. I honestly never thought I would be a senior executive in IT, or do a TEDx talk, or travel around the world, but with each risk I take, I’ve been shown that the sky is not the limit, as others say, it is only my current view. We need to have uncomfortable conversations when a team member’s behavior calls for it, and we need to go outside our comfort zones and move ahead towards the unknown because growth and courage are on the other side.
From my experience, trust only comes when you do what you said you were going to do. One of my all-time favorite books is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, and the very first principle Miguel offers in this code of conduct for your life is to “Be Impeccable with your Word“. Our words create our reality and include everything we express. It includes our emotions, physical actions, thoughts, and attitude. When you express yourself impeccably, you are truthful, honest, and kind. This includes expressing love, respect, and acceptance for yourself and others. Nowadays, being ethical is no longer an option, it is expected of you, and nobody is going to follow a leader who chooses when to be o not to be ethical. We cannot walk around making promises we are unable to keep, nor can we try to be popular and say only what makes others like you. You must tell the truth, even when it is difficult or unpopular, it will always pay off in the end.
Out of all the traits I mention, I believe that making inclusivity a central part of your work’s mission will bring the highest rewards. Effective leaders know and understand the value of a diverse environment. I am not only referring to gender or race, but also background and diversity of thought. Inclusivity and diversity are moral and legal responsibilities, and the lack of it can easily lead to a lack of innovation and a high employee turnover rate. Being inclusive means much more than just hiring Latinos or Asians, it means including ramps as well as stairs, providing standing stations for those who can’t sit all day, ergonomic keyboards, assistive listening devices, and much more. You want to give people a sense of belonging and feeling comfortable, thereby increasing their productivity and mental well-being. In the end, it is a win-win for everyone.
Be A Leader who Empowers Others
Ensuring that your peers and teams develop their skills and prosper at work leads to a stronger and more productive environment, even if they decide to take those qualities elsewhere. To grow leaders, we must be comfortable delegating higher responsibilities to them while also holding them accountable by constantly checking in on their progress and offering guidance and support. This is where coaching and mentoring comes in, which gives less experienced employees valuable feedback, insight, and support while passing down wisdom and institutional knowledge.
When I think back at the leaders I’ve admired, they all demonstrated these qualities. I know that true progress requires us to create metrics to track progress, having clearly defined goals, making people accountable, and establishing continuous improvement cycles, etc. My point here is that none of that will get you far lacking leaders at all levels that embody the qualities that make us all humans.