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Why learning to be Emotionally Self-Aware makes you a better leader

Why learning to be Emotionally Self-Aware makes you a better leader

As a young person new to leadership, I soon found that I could do the paperwork, think and plan strategically, balance the books, and coordinate across multiple agencies. I didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to do this; just well organised and have a curious mind.

But what I soon learned was that this was only one part of leadership, and not even the most challenging part.

It was the people-part of leadership that was going to take my focused attention, energy and learning.

In today’s VUCA world, people-skills are vital.

A 2020 report by Westpac Innovation Fund research 2020 “How might we design for the future of work in New Zealand?” stated:

“We all need to adopt the stance of becoming lifelong learners – there will likely be fewer and fewer jobs for life.

Soft skills such as analytical problem solving, emotional intelligence and resilience will be increasingly desirable in the future of work”.

The development of these skills begins with us. I call this “Leading from the Inside-Out”.

Leading from the Inside-Out means that we are able to recognise, make sense-of and recalibrate how we think and behave in a way that positively impacts both ourselves and those we lead.

Research shows that our level of self awareness directly impacts others.

According to research by organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich, 95 percent of people think they’re self-aware, but only 10 to 15 percent actually are, and that can pose problems for your employees. Working with colleagues who aren’t self-aware can cut a team’s success in half and, according to Eurich’s research, lead to increased stress and decreased motivation.

Leaders set the tone of their organization. If they lack emotional intelligence, it could have more far-reaching consequences, resulting in lower employee engagement and a higher turnover rate.

So how can we lead from a place of emotional self awareness?

First: Build your vocabulary to better express yourself.

The journey starts with our own emotional self-awareness.

To be emotionally self-aware means we are aware of our emotions and their impact on ourselves and others.

Recognising our own emotional state is the first point towards awareness. This can be easier said than done though!

Maybe you were brought up on comments such as
“Sweep it under the carpet”.
“Don’t draw attention to yourself”.
“Toughen-up”.
“Don’t be a sook”

This Emotion-Dismissing behaviour isn’t helpful in supporting people to develop emotional awareness and regulation.

Furthermore, our vocabulary may be limited to emotions such as:
Happy
Sad
Or Angry

Often anything besides feeling ‘happy’ was labelled a ‘bad’ or ‘negative’ emotion.

Expand your emotional literacy, so you begin to use an array of emotion-describing words to express yourself. Seek the micro-emotions beyond an immediate response. Eg: Angry may become Embarrassed, or Happy may become Proud.
Ask yourself “How am I (really) feeling?”

Next: Notice your responses in different situations and the emotions that underpin them.

Is there a pattern?

Are there certain triggers (people or situations), that cause you to default to a certain emotion?

Dig a little deeper to discover what this might be…

  • What does this situation or person’s behavior trigger in me?
  • What pain is generated in me when I am confronted with this behavior or reality?
  • What can you do differently, or how might you respond differently to get a different response?
  • Play with this lightly. Try different approaches and see how they impact both your own state and that of others.

Finally: Understand that we cannot change anyone; we can only change how we think and behave, which may in turn have a ripple effect on those around us. So rather than pointing the finger of blame, ask yourself:

What can I do differently to get a different result?

If you have a tendency to ‘fire-up’ with someone, consider taking a different approach such as asking a curious question, or taking time out and seeking a resolution when everyone is calm again. This takes emotional regulation; something we can’t build unless we practice it.

Go well 🙂
MA

Leading can be HARD, particularly as a female leader.

Challenging the accepted norms and narratives can be especially tricky. Alongside that you need to back yourself and silence the inner critic to be able to take the leap into something you have been yearning to take for ages. It takes courage and grit.

But what if there was a space you could do this that was safe and supportive. A space where you could become a soft and strong leader in your professional field. 

If this is you, then I would like to invite you to join me in my upcoming Soft and Strong Leadership for Women Seminar Series starting Monday, 1 March 2021.

MA

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