Mental toughness, or the ability to be resilient and responsive in difficult circumstances, is rarely considered in the realm of emotional intelligence.
Good leaders, though, understand that being mentally tough is actually somewhat dependent on emotional intelligence: you can’t have mental toughness and low emotional intelligence.
In fact, the best leaders not only understand the importance of emotional intelligence to mental toughness, they cultivate it and use it.
Here are three ways how:
They know empathy is essential. Many leaders brought onboard because of their tough leadership skills end up burned out and exhausted employees with when they are hard on their employees all day, every day. It feels like bullying, and it might actually be. Consultant Jennifer Shafiro learned this the hard way, after watching her employees get burned out. While she’d been brought on as a tough leader, she found that she needed to get to know her team, understand where they were coming from, and be able to envision their world from their perspective, in order to lead effectively. Not everyone responds to a tough, no-nonsense, non-empathic leader.
Emotions don’t mean you’re weak. Alpha-style leadership is effective in some places, namely military applications.
This kind of leadership, however, doesn’t translate well to the civilian world, where leaders need to understand at some level the complexity of their employees. Just telling them to do their job and that’s it doesn’t take into account the myriad emotional, mental, physical and other issues the employees may have. Not to mention, it doesn’t allow the leader to have emotions. Being in touch with your emotions and those of the people around you makes you a more effective leader, not a less effective one. You can tap into and access your employees in ways that hard-line alpha leaders cannot, and therefore help them in ways that make them better employees and better people.
It’s really important to know that understanding emotions doesn’t mean letting them overwhelm you. You can be compassionate and empathetic to your employees without getting involved in their lives or getting caught up in their emotions. It’s incredibly important to be able to uphold that barrier between understanding and becoming overwhelmed by others’ emotions, whether they are employees or friends or even relatives. Your emotions are YOURS and theirs are THEIRS. It’s essential to understand this to ensure you aren’t getting caught up in trying to deal with another person’s emotions.
We can easily see how emotional intelligence can actually provide a supportive role to people in leadership positions, people with friends or relatives going through a hard time, or just anyone for whom the more aggressive, more alpha style is where they are comfortable.
What do you think?