Intelligence grows with knowledge – but only emotions grant us an exponential path to growth.
~ Maria Lehtman
In the age of artificial intelligence, people are keen to make distinctions between the different types of AI. The bottom line is that we are talking about programmable algorithms that, as of yet, are not self-aware.
Instead of writing about the current archetypes of algorithmic learning – I would like to take a moment to address the aspect that leaders need to focus on if they want to succeed in the age of self-learning machines: self-awareness.
The dilemma of a caring leader
I have had the opportunity to learn from great leaders and mentors during my over 25-year career. There are, however, a few moments in time where I wished I had held my ground. When people think of me, they associate my character very often as an ‘altruist‘. People would be correct to think so, however, they often mistake caring for others as the main driver of actions.
A caring leader is not a weak leader nor a person without clear priorities and objectives. When you understand the emotional drivers of people, you tap into their true potential.
There is an opportunity to make something more of their identities than they currently are. This opportunity is not in conflict, nor should it be, with the drivers of an organization.
At some point, I have been asked to ‘not care so much’ about the people on the field due to the fact that it might cause too much stress to me personally. Now, I wonder, who is right and who is wrong – the business world that makes people stretch beyond their physical and psychological limits – or leaders who care how their teams perform and balance out their psyche? Who wins if a top performer topples over due to work pressure? Certainly not the organization.
Learning the emotional spectrum
Feelings are teachers we should always heed – our future depends on it.
~ Maria Lehtman
During past years I have had a unique opportunity to develop my skills alongside younger generations. Quite a few of them have considered me younger than I am. My motto has always been to stay curious – always strive to learn something new, especially when it comes to life lessons. It could be the key to why my “inner child” still plays the front field in both professional and personal life.
Learning emotional intelligence is far from easy, and it does not make you young. On the contrary – going through emotional trauma in healing, I sometimes feel like the Hobbit turning up at his 111th birthday. Every now and then I wish I had the same disappearing ability – but that would, as we know, come at a cost. There is no disappearing from emotions that should be confronted.
When I look at advanced leaders it always amazes me how great minds are put on a pedestal because of their unrelenting drive. When I inspect personalities behind the scenes – more often than not – they turn out to be people I would not call ‘very nice’. In fact, some of the most advanced innovators have been complete bullies. Society accepts that because we place material advantage and success over all other. What if that disappeared? What would remain if 40% of your staff or turnover disappeared tomorrow? What skills would you use to overcome the gap? Driving people harder? Or motivating them to think of ways to work smarter, innovate, create ecosystems across industry borders, and learn new technologies and skills to overcome the challenge?
The older I get the higher I value wisdom, intelligence and higher intelligence. The difference between the first two and the last one is the level of emotional understanding. Higher intelligence does not exist without the complete emotional spectrum. You do not need to go further than science to understand that our bodies are made of resonances. We are created from the same material as found on earth. We have frequencies. When a vital organ starts to fail it is typically because something is causing the biochemical processes and frequencies to fail. Emotions are not a separate entity to the physical ones, they complete the making of a higher intelligence. A physical breakdown is not the cause, it is the symptom. When you take this range a level further you start to see that the wider the spectrum the deeper the understanding of human psyche. People who experience only negative emotions, or force emotions on others, also lack an understanding of a holistic human being and mind.
6 steps to address emotions and lead by them
Creativity is the key to emotions. When you see shadows – do they feel a rainbow?
~ Maria Lehtman
The lessons I wanted to share from my career is: in higher intelligent the words ‘too caring’ do not exist. What does exist, however, is too exhausted and overloaded. Understanding emotions and acting to care for others should never come at the cost of your own health. At times it does, but lessons are there to be learned, so learn and live on.
This leads me to lessons number two: Never regret having cared too much. I have not. Even when it came at a cost, it allowed me to tap into a deeper understanding of my fellow human beings – friends, colleagues, family. Most of all, it taught me to understand myself. I came to realize that true intelligence lies in the entire spectrum from negative to positive feelings. I now recognize that I am self-aware of the feelings in people whether or not they are in the same room, country, – even the globe, who knows. The universe is full of surprises. Creativity stems from emotions and the other way around.
If you want to succeed as a digital leader in the age of cognitive machine learning, you need to dare to dive deeper into emotional intelligence of your coworkers and team members. This will help you in any situation you need to overcome that might otherwise hinder progress. It is especially critical in change management and awareness.
- Ask open questions from the people you work with, and never assume you know or that you understand. You do not. We only comprehend what we have lived through and learned ourselves. The concepts you have not yet learned, others cannot even describe to you. Believe me, I know.
- Focus on the emotions. When you get answers to your questions, ensure that people respond to emotionally intelligent questions with emotional description. Very often, people tend to describe a feeling with a verb or describing a situation, task, consequence, or a challenge rather than the actual emotional feelings. Ask further questions until you understand their emotional drivers.
- Encourage the person to share their feelings with positive comments, without judgment, and without encouraging negative behavior. Even if you cannot associate with the situation, saying “I understand” means you acknowledge the other person’s feelings and accept their circumstance.
- Look for an outcome. Overanalyzing the situation is never good. Remember, you are not the source of the issue, nor the expert in the situation. You are the mentor. This means you cannot comprehensively define how the other person’s situation came about or how they should feel about it. You can only moderate and ask questions to find a suitable course of action. Usually, several paths will arise, and you feel and sense what paths are acceptable to the other party.
- Keep your confidence. Do not let the other person’s troubles overcome you. You need to be emotionally present, but not be overwhelmed and invested too much to become blindsided. We all have our blind spots. You may see that the other person has not spotted theirs, but you must also remember, you are blind to yours.
- Keep your integrity. Whatever you discuss in emotionally charged meetings, you have to respect the person who has shared their load. Thank them for sharing their feelings. As a line manager or a peer, you may need to alert someone if there is a situation that calls for attention. However, always be very discreet and remember, there are laws in place to protect individuals. Some things you can discuss, others you cannot. The worst cases I ever saw were people discussing workplace issues on social media. Even if you belonged to closed leadership groups – never, ever do that.
Diving into emotional intelligence arena is very challenging in many cultures. You may face resistance, especially at the beginning. If you start out with positive aspects of emotional sharing: thank-you-notes, acknowledging good performance, seasonal greetings – you lower the barrier gradually to allow more people to follow your example.
Our feelings are not there to be cast out or conquered. They’re there to be engaged and expressed with imagination and intelligence.