Strengthening your Emotional Leadership

Fri, Aug 13, 2010


Since few people have the guts to tell you the truth about your emotional impact, you must discover it on your own. Use the following steps to rewire your brain for greater emotional intelligence.

Step 1: My Ideal Self – Who do I want to be?

Uncover an ideal vision of yourself ‘“ discover the person you want to be. Imagine yourself as a highly effective leader.

Example: Sofia, a senior manager, often micromanaged others to ensure work was done ‘right.’ Her vision as an effective leader in the future was: I picture myself leading my own company, a tight-knit enterprise staffed by ten colleagues. I am enjoying a healthy, open relationship with my daughter, and similarly trusting relationships with my friends and co-workers. I see myself as relaxed and happy as a leader and parent, and loving and empowering to all those around me.


Think about where you would be fifteen years from now and living your ideal life.

  • What kinds of people would be around you?
  • What does your environment look and feel like?
  • What might you be doing during a typical day or week?

Don’t worry about the feasibility of creating this kind of ideal life. Just let the image develop, and place yourself in the picture.

Think about the different arenas of your life that are important, such as family, relationships, work, spirituality, physical health.

  • What are your core values in each of those areas?
  • List five or six principles that guide you in your work and life ‘“ and think about whether they are values that you truly live by or simply talk about.
  • Or, list all of the things you want to do or experience before you die.

Step 2: My real self ‘“ Who am I? What are my strengths and gaps?

This is akin to looking into a mirror to discover who you actually are now ‘“ how you act, how others view you, and what your deep beliefs comprise.

Example: As he clicked his mouse on Send, Nolan Taylor realized he had just sent a scathing email criticizing the company’s recent announcement of layoffs ‘“ and his boss’s role in it ‘“ not to his friend in another division but to his boss. Yet even as he was trying to think ways he could somehow retrieve the message before his boss read it, the larger issue that this email represented struck him. It was a shocking moment of awakening: He realized that he was not acting like the person he wanted to be ‘“ no self control, pessimistic, resorting to cynicism and criticism of others.


1. Consider few questions about how you typically act these days, and contrast it with the person you were in the past.

a. Do you awake each morning excited about the day, not wanting to sleep any more than absolutely necessary?
b. Do you laugh as much as you did once?
c. Are you having as much fun at work?

2. Seek out other people’s perspectives in order to get an accurate picture of yourself through 360-degree feedback. Collect information from ‘“ your boss, your peers, your subordinates, your customers ‘“ on how you act and how they see you.

Step 3: My learning agenda ‘“ How can I build my strengths while reducing my gaps?

Develop an agenda for improving your abilities. A plan of action should be constructed that provides detailed guidance on what new things to try each day, building on your strengths and moving you closer to your ideal.

Example: Juan, a marketing executive, was intimidating, impossible to please ‘“ a grouch. Charged with growing his company, he needed to be encouraging, optimistic ‘“ a coach with a vision. Setting out to understand others, he coached soccer, volunteered at a crisis-center, and got to know subordinates by meeting outside of work. These new situations stimulated him to break old habits and try new responses.


1. Gap Analysis

Find out how your real self is different from your ideal self. The following table can be used to record the gap:

My real self Gap My ideal self
Intimidating Lack of coaching, empathy Empowering
Impulsive Lack of patience, confidence Self-control

2. Set goals for yourself based on the above analysis. Make sure these goals are:

a. To build your strengths not weaknesses
b. Made by you and not imposed by someone else
c. Flexible
d. Realistic, manageable

e. Suitable for your learning style ‘“ learning from own experience, learning from other’s experience, or trial and error

Step 4: Experimenting with and practicing new behaviors, thoughts, and feelings to the point of mastery – How do I make change stick?

Repeatedly rehearse new behaviors ‘“ physically and mentally ‘“ until they are automatic.

Example: Tom, an executive wanted to learn how to coach rather than castigate struggling employees. Using his commuting time to visualize a difficult meeting with one of his employee, he envisioned asking questions and listening, and mentally rehearsed how he would handle feeling impatient. This exercise prepared him to adopt new behaviors at the actual meeting.


Experiment new behaviors and practice them inside and outside work. For example, Jack talked about his learning plan with his wife and enlisted her as an informal coach to help him become a better listener at home and with friends.

Mentally rehearse. Clearly picture yourself achieving your ideal state, and maintain that focus.

Step 5: Developing supportive and trusting relationships that make change possible ‘“ Who can help me?

Don’t try to build your emotional skills alone. Take others help to identify your ideal self or find your real self, to discover your strengths and gaps, to develop an agenda for the future, and to experiment and practice.

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