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How To Improve Your Emotional Intelligence And Avoid Leading With An Ego

KeenAlignment CEO, Margaret Graziano, executive leadership coach, gives some common sense executive leadership training in Improving Your Emotional Intelligence, a thought leadership article featured on Forbes Business Council.

For many people who saw Will Smith slap Chris Rock at this year's Oscars, it was a shocking and unsettling experience. While there was debate surrounding who was right or wrong, what this moment showed me was how important it is to discuss emotional intelligence. A low emotional quotient, or EQ, can hijack your life and happiness at work.

As humans, our brains are pretty much programmed by the time we turn 30. That programming is guided by our reactions to all kinds of childhood experiences — whether negative, positive, intellectual, spiritual or emotional. By becoming more aware of your thoughts and behavior patterns, you can respond in more rational and measured ways and avoid reactions that can seize control of your life both personally and professionally.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow introduced his now-famous hierarchy of needs in a 1943 paper called "A Theory of Human Motivation." At the time, his suggestion that people were motivated to fulfill basic needs before fulfilling more advanced needs was a revelation. Today, Maslow's ideas are widely accepted and increasingly applied in organizational psychology.

The highest level of his hierarchy is self-actualization, which refers to the complete realization of one's potential. Self-actualization can help you become a better leader, which, in turn, can have a positive impact on your company's culture and performance. But change is difficult and uncomfortable. We are wired to fear the unknown, so we resist.

Say goodbye to fear.

Before you can bring your higher self to work, you need to say goodbye to fear and a defensive, reactive mindset. This means being open to change and managing your ego. From an evolutionary standpoint, part of a healthy ego's job is to protect you from real-world threats. But sometimes, the ego goes into overdrive.

When you are stressed, the amygdala — the part of your brain that helps you process and react to strong emotions — sends out chemicals that narrow your perspective and can put your ego in charge. When the amygdala takes over in the wrong circumstances, it's called an "amygdala hijack," and you can have illogical or irrational, overreactive behaviors.

At an organizational level, companies run by leaders with ego problems can struggle with innovation and growth because everyone is afraid to approach, much less confront, their boss's ego. If you allow an overactive ego to guide your decision making at work, it's going to be very challenging to lead people into a successful future. It's time for you to be in charge, not your ego.

Once you're not being led around by your ego, you can focus more on your people and your organization's strengths, not limitations. This can then evolve into the genuine exploration of innovative ideas — and they will no longer only have to be ideas from the leadership team. You can welcome a diversity of perspectives and find deep meaning in orchestrating an environment where the varied voices and energies of your people can blend into a seamless, highly productive whole.

So, how do you get started? It's time to start a crucial conversation with yourself — the leader within. You must understand yourself before you can successfully lead others.

Many of the world's top leadership experts teach that deeper self-awareness is more crucial for success than ever. They understand that you can't steer the boat for others if you're not even the captain of your own ship. That's why understanding yourself, your vision and your values should be your highest priority as a leader.

Change takes courage.

You know well that the only certainty in business is that things constantly change. Surprises and challenges are always just around the corner. Be prepared. Strengthen yourself so you can strengthen your team and your organizational culture. No matter how much of an expert you are in your industry, how high your IQ is or how many years of experience you have, you can't have sustained success unless you can effectively lead yourself and others on a journey of continuous improvement, self-awareness and growth.

But remember, discovering your core values as a person, leader and company is not a one-time exercise. It's a life-long commitment — a new way of being. Healthy, successful adults lead and live from the inside out. Don't let your life or your happiness be hijacked by low emotional intelligence. Far too many people, especially leaders, allow themselves to be defined by their work. By understanding your values and committing to a life aligned with those values, you will become the person who leads your company into a better future.

By understanding your values and committing to a life aligned with those values, you will become the person who leads your company into a better future. If you want common sense Executive Leadership training for you or your team contact us.


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