During the last 18 months of COVID, leaders are looking for ways to be more effective in difficult times. Because of the pandemic-related, social and emotional challenges all of us have experienced, now is an excellent time to consider the core pillars of leadership. These crucial elements help us know how to best create healthy conditions at work and home.
As a leader, you are probably asking yourself questions such as: How can I help? What skills allow me to generate the insight and clear-headed thinking I need to move forward successfully? These five core pillars of leadership enable you to expand your problem-solving skills and build up your resilience and fortitude.
I. Reaction Management
Research has shown that emotional intelligence is more important than IQ for success. Every emotion has a message in it that helps us understand our triggers and reactions, and develop our self-awareness. Understanding how to deal effectively with your emotional reactions allows you to have control of the situation. When you control your thinking, it enables you to solve problems, make decisions, and act. You also raise your capacity to elevate the quality of your relationships and your interactions with those you lead, at the workplace and at home. By managing your reactions, you can become an observer of how to process emotions and, using a non-judgmental lens, come to understand what triggers you in ways that help you learn and grow from the experience. Taking some time to move out of the reaction itself allows you to choose how to respond and take charge of the situation.
We often go to great lengths to hide our vulnerability. However, the leaders who share their weaknesses and struggles are where we find the most real, inspiring, and easy to connect with. Not only does vulnerability allow us to be our authentic selves, it is a powerful tool that we can use to empower others.
A leader who expresses vulnerability does not feel compelled to be the first to answer or come up with an idea. Being open as a leader involves a change in mindset that enables you to see through the eyes of the people you lead.
Resilience is the human capacity to meet adversity, setbacks, and trauma and then recover from them to live life fully. Resilient leaders can sustain their energy level under pressure to cope with disruptive changes and adapt more easily. They bounce back from setbacks. They also overcome significant difficulties without engaging in dysfunctional behavior or harming others.
Leaders must cultivate resilience in themselves to face challenges and changes. They also carry the responsibility of helping to protect the energy of the people in their teams. Leadership is sustainable only if individuals and groups can consistently recover high energy levels.
IV. Strategic Questioning
Using questions strategically is the skill of asking questions that make a difference. It is a powerful tool for helping people discover their strategies and ideas for change. When people frame their thinking as questions rather than as concerns or problems, a conversation begins where everyone can learn something new together.
Leaders who can pose a powerful question make it easy by asking in a simple, straightforward, and thought-provoking way. The benefit for others is generating energy and engagement, resurfacing assumptions for consideration, and opening new thinking and possibilities. When others come up with their answers, they often feel ownership over their decisions.
V. Listening to Understand
To be a great leader who inspires trust in others, listening alone isn’t enough. You need to demonstrate that you not only hear others but that you “get them.”
Want to become a better leader? Stop talking and start listening. Astute leaders know that knowledge and wisdom are not gained by talking but by hearing what others have to say; that there is far more to gain by surrendering the floor than by dominating it. Instead of rushing to communicate what’s on your mind, listen to understand and learn from the minds of others. You’ll find value in what you gain. And those you lead will sincerely appreciate your interest in what they have to say and feel.
Co-authors Jane Firth and Andrea Zintz, Grit, Grace & Gravitas, The Three Keys to Transforming Leadership, Presence, and Impact.
We wrote our book to share our models and research, teach and explain the social-emotional skills so needed right now. The stories and suggestions for handling reactions and relationships help leaders understand their capacity to evolve and have the tools to do so. Our book describes how the constructive power of grace provides us with greater dominion over emotional triggers and adverse reactions; how the skills and qualities of grace help to have better relationships and inspire others through behaviors and impact. Now is the time when social-emotional skills are essential for creating the conditions that lead to success. Our book can add insight and value to the vital work you are trying to accomplish.