When you think of successful leaders, there are probably many words that come to mind before balance: strength, intelligence, talent and confidence to name a few. Reaching the executive level requires more than the ability to make big decisions and execute. Communication skills and emotional intelligence are critically important and finding that balance between being passionate and overly aggressive, between listening to others and making decisions may be challenging.
As you come up through the ranks, you often err on the side of pushing through, knowing that your enthusiasm and energy are often enough to convince others to be swayed in your direction. Charismatic leaders may find themselves floundering a bit with their peers and direct reports, as it becomes more important to temper that passion with softer skills.
Reining In Your Personality . . . a Bit
Your passionate drive has inspired people throughout your career to believe in you, so it may be difficult to realize that the trait that has served you so well is suddenly letting you down. Some leaders may find themselves pushing too hard, and finding good ideas withdrawn due to respect for their position.
The very last thing any executive needs is direct reports who do not think for themselves – because you will find yourself doing the thinking for them. Instead, you have to continue to foster innovation and devil’s advocate thinking regardless of its origination point.
Finding the Tipping Point
It will take some time to determine the tipping point that allows you to progress projects without shutting down your staff and peers. This balance requires having the emotional intelligence to see when others are feeling cowed and unable to share their ideas. Some signs that you have some work to do include:
- People describe you as a “bull in a china shop” or “someone with sharp elbows” (hint: you almost certainly won’t hear this from them directly!)
- You find yourself blaming others for problems on your team
- You get frustrated and impatient when others just “don’t get it”
- Your expectations for others are unrealistic and unreasonable
- People often overreact to your jokes or snide comments
Of course, everyone has a moment here and there where they say something that isn’t as sensitive as it could be. That doesn’t necessarily denote a problem, but it should be a wakeup call if you have these feelings on a regular basis. Finding that tipping point between being a strong leader and causing others to retreat can take time and patience.
Creating a Safe Space
Your staff and peers should always feel comfortable coming to you for advice or providing you with feedback. If you go to others and they carefully avoid offering you negative feedback, there is likely a problem. You are a highly intelligent individual, and you likely have great instincts – which is probably why you are in the position that you are in. However, growing your emotional intelligence can be the push to take you from good to great.
It will take time to make changes, and people will not react to the “new you” overnight. Change takes time internally, and even longer for others to believe that the change is substantial and lasting.
Make Your Emotions Work for You
- Ask for feedback from peers and staff, listen actively and do not respond immediately.
- Use a “pause” when you feel that you are being more reactive than is helpful in any particular situation.
- Consider the “why” when others react in a way that frustrates or puzzles you.
- Seek a deeper relationship and understanding with your team, such as exploring your strengths in a team retreat [link to site].
- Step off the defensive when you receive criticism. Consider this a growth opportunity instead!
Even if you have already attained the highest level in your career, cultivating this balance and emotional intelligence will allow you to be even more effective – and will have the attractive side benefit of making your days easier and more enjoyable as well! You may find that friendships become more real and that internal and external relationships are less strained. Who knows, you might even find that giving in a little is a very effective negotiation tool!
Learn more about your team members and yourself when you explore your strengths and those of your team. Call me today at 206-393-2392 to book your team retreat, or to claim your free 30-minute personal consultation.