Mastering the Key Leadership Derailers
with Emotional Intelligence
“The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.” — General Norman Schwarzkopf, the best-known US Army Commander.
You would come across several instances in your life where people, situation and events will guide you through the ideal immediate solutions or the “drivers to leadership success”. However, that is only one part of your holistic leadership journey—if you look at it through a panoramic view. What is lesser known to many emerging leaders is that you need to be equally aware of the derailers – behaviours that will get into your way to progress.
What are Leadership Derailers?
Derailment, as the name suggests, refers to going off-track and being affected with the consequences. For instance, have you ever seen the immediate fallout of a train’s derailment? It cannot move, causes a loss to passengers, etc. But as long as it remains on the track, it performs its function perfectly. Similarly, derailers are those critical elements of an emotionally intelligent leadership journey that put your abilities to maximum torque. They are essentially your behaviours that mirror your default tendencies in tough situations. As you learn to master them, you guarantee yourself a higher emotional intelligence quotient and eventually an unmatched leadership excellence.
As Schwarzkopf points out that these derailers, may still be easy to identify, only those who learn to practice them, make it to the finishing line of what you call – “leadership success”. A true leadership starts with complete self-awareness and a high emotional intelligence quotient. Within that, there are derailers that you need to be cautious about and evaluate where you stand, and what are those hidden default tendencies that make you end up with the same “unwanted” results each time.
Derailers that can Sabotage your Leadership Success If You Aren’t Self-Aware
Impulse Control: This is about your ability to control an instant reaction—which could be sudden outbust. When you take control of your negative emotions, you are able to come across as a matured person even when you are irritated to the core. Remember, maturity comes with practice not with growing age. So, an impulse control essentially means controlling any rash or inordinate behaviour or decisions. Steven J Stein, in his popular book titled The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence, defines that impulse control can be identified through inabilities to tolerate frustration, lacking control over anger, abusive behaviour and loss of self-control.
A clear distinction between those who are good at impulse control and those who are not, is that the former respond and the latter react. It is easy to jump to a reaction. But you cannot be sure that whether your reaction will solve the problem or benefit anyone. An emotionally intelligent leader with a high impulse control would, rather, take a few steps back before making a conclusion and responding. Leaders who exercise low impulse control tend to have difficulty controlling their emotions especially when they experience anger. More often than not, they are not self-aware of the trigger behind their emotions. Hence, they are more vulnerable to stress. They might end up creating dysfunctionality in the team.
Problem-Solving: This is purely about your ability to identify the problem and persistently identifying the solution. These problems could be of a personal and interpersonal nature. A leader who has a high problem-solving awareness level would prefer to discuss solutions more than the problems. Optimism and problem-solving are highly inter-related. A leader or an individual who is optimistic will always find solutions to a problem easily and his solutions would be relatively more effective –simply because his entire focus is stagnant at the solution.
Not all problems have an easy solution and this is completely understable. However, what matters is how much efforts you invest in braving them and replacing them with solutions that are sustainable. Problems, especially, at the workplace can be complex because we deal with human emotions mostly. Problem-solving pertains to looking for multiple alternatives to a single problem and practicing them until everything falls in place.
Flexibility: This is one is about your ability to adapt to changing scenarios — accept new ideas and learning to go with the flow. You need to understand and accept that if you resist the change, you will be left behind. Simply because the only constant is change. A leader who is open to the ideas of direct reports or the team will be more appreciated and celebrated rather than those who remain rigid to conventional approaches. This is needed the more as you go up in the ladder.
The only way you learn to be flexible is to learn to listen. As you start listening, you begin to open your mind to newer, unseen ideas.
Similarly, in another case, I found one of my clients confessing about his lacking control over his bouts of anger. He said that the women in his team were especially affected. To such an extent that one of them tendered her resignation stating that he was otherwise a great mentor but he was extremely intolerant to any unconventional approaches to tasks, which she adopted and when she would try to explain, he would get rude with her. In this case, through a series of assessments, we discovered that flexibility and impulse control were his derailers.
Getting the command of derailers is easier said that done. In each of the cases, empathy plays a critical role. What would serve best is to take a step back and question the self-chatter that goes at the back of your mind while you are mentally processing the situation. A self-introspection and self-questioning will broaden your perspective and help you convert a reaction into a response.
There is no single “one size fits for all” method to raise the emotional intelligence quotient. It starts with identifying the existing blind spots or derailers, assessing them and tailoring the solutions. Also, its about asking how to polish them. The more you practice something the more you build up on the procedural memory in the brain (a memory responsible for the performance of particular types of action), which will allow you to carry out a movement quicker and more naturally with increased practice. And, ultimately do away with the derailer.
If you are looking for an assessment (EQi 2.0) or solutions around leadership development pertaining to any of the above, reach out to us here: firstname.lastname@example.org.