Bold Leadership through a Strengths-Based Approach to Emotional Intelligence
Experienced professionals can improve their influence with enhanced Emotional Intelligence, building on their core talents that have brought success.
I have often coached leaders with strong technical backgrounds and accomplishments who struggle with certain aspects of interpersonal relationships. The challenge might be connecting with their team members, influencing or collaborating with peers, or dealing with a difficult manager. Some leaders manage relationships well but realize they could achieve more with greater self-control, empathy, and influence. Whether you’re addressing a current challenge or working to expand your impact working with others, this is the realm of Emotional Intelligence (EI).
How do the talents or strengths which have made you successful relate to areas like this where you might be experiencing challenges? I believe your strengths provide both the mindset and toolkit for addressing emotional intelligence (and any other challenge or opportunity). Your strengths summarize who you are and how you do things, and they are the first things you should consider when you’re trying to develop or enhance any skill, including emotional intelligence.
Your strengths first of all describe a mindset for dealing with issues in the emotional realm. People are both rational and emotional beings, although most of us lean more in one direction or the other. Leaders with strong technical background often focus on the rational side and may even try to avoid or ignore matters of emotion in the workplace. On an assessment like Gallup’s CliftonStrengths, many of the strengths of a technical (rational) leader often fall in the Execution and Strategic Thinking domains. For example, someone with the strength of “Activator” has the innate talent to turn thoughts and ideas into action, and they are often impatient with others who aren’t ready to come along.
Someone who leans more to the emotional side of life and relationships will often have their key strengths in the domains of Relationship Building and Influencing. Some of these talent themes have a clear relationship with emotional intelligence – for example, Empathy. People who have the theme of Empathy have a natural talent to sense other people’s feelings and can even imagine themselves “in someone else’s shoes.” In this way, a person’s top strengths may suggest or confirm a mindset that either highlights or downplays things in the emotional realm.
Strengths are also our toolkit for enhancing emotional intelligence. The idea is to use the strengths you have to meet the challenges you face. Obviously that would involve leveraging any themes in the Relationship Building and Influencing domains to address the skills of emotional intelligence. For example, a technical leader might have the theme of Relator and have only a few close friends with whom they relate. Nonetheless, they have relational skills that work in that context and can often be “grown” (expanded, developed) and applied to other relationships such as customers or team members.
But even if someone has all of their top strengths in the more “rational” domains of Executing and Strategic Thinking, their strengths are still the means to address challenges in the emotional realm. For example, someone strong in Executing, with the themes of Achiever and/or Responsibility, will often use their drive and their values to focus more effort and attention on building strong relationships and working with others more effectively. Likewise in the area of Strategic Thinking, a person with the theme of Learner can tap into their love of the learning process to study and apply skills of emotional intelligence.
There’s much more to be explored and discussed here, as I’ve learned from years of coaching experienced technical leaders – from engineers and financial professionals to healthcare providers. Please see my website (www.BoldLeaderDevelopment.com) for more information about Strengths-Based Emotional Intelligence, and join the conversation!