by V. S. Ravi Elangkoh

“Leadership is influence.”
                                            ~ John C. Maxwell

Business people walking on cog wheelsMuch has been said and written about leadership influence and emotional intelligence. A Google search on 9 May 2012 of the key phrase “leadership influence and emotional intelligence” yielded 3.99 million results, whereas a Yahoo search of exactly the same phrase yielded 101 million results. While the algorithm used by each of the two well-known search engines might be quite different, the significant number of references to the phrase indicates the strong link between leadership influence and emotional intelligence.

To refresh our memory on what emotional intelligence is, let us consider the definition by Peter Salovey and John Mayer, which was submitted about six years before Daniel Goleman popularized the term in his bestseller, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ:

“We define emotional intelligence as the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”
~ Salovey & Mayer, Emotional Intelligence, 1990

[Note: The term “emotional intelligence” was coined by the late Wayne Payne in his 1985 doctoral thesis titled, “A Study of Emotion: Emotional Intelligence”. It was not well-known earlier because it was unavailable electronically. Reference: http://eqi.org/payne.htm]

Your influence is greater than you think
Many of us underestimate our leadership influence on others; that’s why we are pleasantly surprised when people tell us that they have achieved something because of what we once said to them, or did for them. On the contrary, our leadership influence could adversely impact people in such a way that they underachieve instead.

It is always never too late to pause and check yourself. Among the first things you can do is to find out if you are unwittingly committing some of the errors that hamper leadership influence. Once you realize where you have gone wrong, you can start making some timely changes – even micro changes can make a huge difference.

Dr Reldan S. Nadler, the author of Leading with Emotional Intelligence, outlines seven errors – usually unintentional – that can stifle our leadership performance and influence. Check if you have inadvertently fallen into any of these:

(1) Generalization of skill error
This tends to happen when you promote people who excel technically to a managerial or leadership position. A classic scenario is the computer genius who gets promoted to Head of Department. Though a brilliant individual performer, the software engineer may turn out to be terrible at managing or leading. Instead, leaders – who should themselves have high EI – must work on their successors’ EI as a top priority.

(2) Spotlight error
Leaders are constantly under the spotlight where every little action is scrutinized and, unfortunately, often misconstrued. Even presidents and CEOs have been caught off-guard with some embarrassing or reactive response captured on social media that went viral. But once the damage is done, the leader’s credibility and influence are seriously, or even irreversibly, affected. The caveat: Nothing is off-the-record especially when a recording device is so readily accessible nowadays (and turned on without the speaker’s knowledge).

(3) Influence error
Amid the hustle and bustle of work, you tend to forget to acknowledge your people’s contributions; sometimes you even lose touch with them! Your leadership influence over your people diminishes each day with every missed opportunity to share your positive influence. Therefore, actively seek out such opportunities, whether during a festive season celebration or at a company event.

(4) Neglect error
Sometimes leaders get so bogged down by so many urgent matters that they forget what is non-urgent but still very important. Providing consistent feedback, coaching and direction is an indispensable leadership responsibility, whether or not it seems to be urgently required at that moment.

(5) Style alignment error
Every leader has his or her unique preferred style of communicating and leading. But what sets great leaders with high EI apart is that they know how to align their leadership styles to accommodate the diverse needs of their people. For example, in countries with a multi-ethnic identity, you find that some leaders can thrive within their own ethnic groups but are less effective or influential on a national platform.

(6) Focus error
Leaders who are not focused or have not made their vision clear enough would not be able to positively influence their people. Too many focus areas will confuse one’s followers and spread all work efforts too thinly everywhere.

(7) Frequency error
Sometimes, leaders don’t apply the necessary strategies frequently enough to reap results. Just like exercise or learning – it needs to be done consistently and long enough to gain the desired impact.

Conclusion
If two or more of the seven errors apply to you or a direct report, it implies that you are under-performing. However, there is room to grow and maximize your leadership influence, for instance, through mentorship or professional coaching.

Reference
Leading with Emotional Intelligence: Hands-On Strategies for Building Confident and Collaborative Star Performers by Reldan S. Nadler

[Image courtesy of DD Pavumba]