It remains an elusive concept for many businesses, yet investing in the Emotional Fitness of your company’s top executives will benefit everyone. Below Mark Latuske from Clarendon Executive examines the hallmarks of an emotionally fit or ‘intelligent’ leader, how you can improve your emotional fitness, and why we should place it high on the business agenda.
As an avid sports fan – particularly cricket – I’m always interested in how psychology comes into play and almost always ends up the determining factor in who wins and who loses.
In professional sports, the difference between one athlete and another is often pretty negligible. While one may be a bit faster, more skilled or experienced than another, what in my view really differentiates outstanding athletes from the rest of their peers is emotional fitness.
The same is true of business success. While some may scoff at the idea of a good leader revealing what may be perceived as his or her ‘softer side’, it is becoming increasingly accepted that displaying emotional resilience, self-awareness and empathy at the top has a trickle effect down to the rest of the team, driving deeper employee morale and higher productivity.
In short, emotional intelligence can be the differentiator between good and exceptional leaders and consequently good and exceptional businesses.
As an executive coach, I often work with leaders to help them develop the type of emotional fitness that forms the bedrock of successful teams and organisations.
In my experience the key traits of an emotionally fit leader tend to include:
Although some people tend to have more emotional intelligence than others, it is fortunately something that can be worked on. Unlike IQ – which is fixed from an early age – emotional fitness or intelligence is malleable.
In terms of basic steps to improve your emotional fitness, there is a wealth of decent books out there covering the topic, but my advice would be, rather than trying to do it all, to pick just two or three areas of focus for adjustment or ‘change’.
The most critical aspect to improving your emotional fitness in a work context, in my view, is not to dwell exclusively on the within, but also to consider the ‘without’. As Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks once said; “The most undervalued characteristic of leadership is vulnerability and asking for help.” The wisdom of this comment, whilst evident, is surprisingly something many leaders tend to struggle with.
Emotionally fit individuals, at any level within an organisation, understand that a key component of their success is down to the people they are surrounded by, and the environments in which they operate. They acknowledge their limitations or deficiencies and are able to seek guidance when needed. When evaluating those you work with and the environment you work in, seek out and develop strong and healthy relationships with resilient, positive individuals whose support, reflection, coaching and advice you trust and respect.
Like physical fitness, if a good routine is maintained with regard to emotional fitness and keeping on top of it, you will likely prevent greater issues down the line.
Returning to my original sporting analogy, we might draw some inspiration from the English world-cup winning batswoman wicket-keeper Sarah Taylor who, after work with a psychologist and re-assessment of her environmental triggers, overcame crippling mental anxiety to become a role model for female cricketers the world over.
For those of us trying to shine as leaders in our own settings, it would seem clear that while we build our technical competence and core skills we should also be overtly committed to building and sustaining emotional fitness.