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leadership

Heart and Edge: The Secret Ingredients of a High Performing Leader

When you think of a great leader or mentor who has had a positive influence on your life, how would you describe that person? Were they strong, fearless, driven, smart or were they a good listener, coach, understanding, warm, funny? We know that when leaders have too much heart, people walk all over them. When leaders have too much edge, people fear them. Can you have a combination of these traits – a heart of empathy and understanding with a strong edge of accountability and fear? The highest performing leaders know the answer to this question, and work on it daily.

Maybe you are a leader who knows the answer or wants to take your leadership performance to the next level. You might have already read several leadership books, watched numerous TED talks, and attended countless training programs. The real question you need to ask yourself is, “Do you work on your edge or your heart?” Niccolo Machiavelli, one of the most famous Italian philosophers and diplomats of the Renaissance period said, “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”  In contrast to this viewpoint, today’s leadership research identifies the most effective leaders have a combination of a heart of compassion and an edge of accountability often referred to as “steel and velvet”. It is this healthy combination, that is developed over time, that leads to leadership success.

Starting with warmth, and not fear, is essential to successful leadership performance. People need to like you first before they follow you. If you want to influence another person, you must connect with them off the bat. It doesn’t matter if you have a title over someone or not; being a warm person facilitates a trusting environment with open communication and ideas. Your body language – a smile, an open gesture, a positive nod – can show people you are pleased to be in their presence and are listening and attentive to them.

According to an article by Amy Cuddy, Matthew Kohut and John Neffinger in Harvard Business Review, it states, “The best way to gain influence is to combine warmth and strength—as difficult as Machiavelli says that may be to do. The traits can actually be mutually reinforcing.” Feeling a sense of inner strength helps people to be more open and less aggressive in stressful situations. When we, as humans, feel calm and confident, we project authenticity and friendliness.

It is challenging balancing heart and edge, especially because many of us are born or raised with a certain style of leadership that naturally favors one over the other. Self-aware leaders know that changing or improving a behavior takes time and can be very challenging. We form habits and negative self-talk that prevent us from making shifts in our leadership style for the better. This is a true test of Emotional Intelligence (EI). Are you able to manage your emotions and move away from old habits that might sabotage your highest performance? An emotionally intelligent leader can do this and is open to being vulnerable and receiving feedback without becoming defensive. Even when it is extremely uncomfortable, effective leaders know how to engage with others and prioritize their team to achieve overall success and happiness.

Research identifying the most important leadership qualities based on a study of 195 leaders in 15 countries over 30 global organizations highlights the importance of having both heart and edge. What does leadership heart and edge mean?

Heart/Velvet

This is the soft edge approach of leadership. These leaders demonstrate humility, listen without bias and build connections with others. They typically show the following traits:

  • Persuasion over raw power
  • Builds trust and shows confidence in their teams
  • Open to healthy conflict and wants to hear the opinions of others
  • Not afraid of being vulnerable
  • Want to engage with their team members on a personal and professional level
  • Warm and caring.
  • Let other team members lead and grow from challenges (or even mistakes) as long as they don’t jeopardize the team

Edge/Steel

These leaders use control and power to achieve their leadership success. They set high expectations for themselves and other team members. They typically show the following traits:

  • Hold themselves and others 100% accountable
  • Straight talkers and stand with conviction
  • Expect things to finish on time and within budget
  • Say or do things that might be unpopular

How do you show up with a combination of both even if you have a natural tendency towards one?  How do you utilize EI in your leadership style? Start by practicing self-awareness and identifying if you are a leader with more heart or edge. If you don’t know, ask others on your team. They will tell you.

If you have too much heart, here are some ideas to practice:

  1. Question if everyone on your team is performing to their highest performance. How can you set tougher short-term goals and push your team out of their comfort zone? Remember to stay strong and consistent in your leadership direction even if people complain or make excuses.
  2. Hold people on your team accountable. Allow them to have a voice and feel valued but be clear in your feedback. Have courageous conversations in a timely manner and preferably in the morning.
  3. If you are afraid you are going to hurt a team members’ feelings, quiet that voice and speak anyway because your feedback is valuable to their long-term success.

If you have too much edge, here are some ideas to practice:

  1. Create a culture where everyone feels their opinion matters and there is healthy conflict. The thing you should most fear is everyone agreeing with you.
  2. Learn how to place empathy at the center of all leadership and design decisions. You will supercharge your ability to produce breakthrough innovations.
  3. Listen more and try not to jump to a solution without hearing others’ opinions. Invite the person you might not be the biggest fan of, but has a stake in your company’s success, to your next meeting. You may even want to consider asking them to lunch.

In my leadership coaching and training experience, I see all types of leaders who each have their own set of challenges. Great leadership starts with you and your own authentic self-awareness.

“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born – that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.” —Warren Bennis 

Becoming a great leader is something that evolves over time. This is hard in practice and needs to be part of your proactive growth to leadership excellence. Remember, it is this balance of heart and edge that is the key to becoming a high performing leader. Don’t give up on trying to achieve it and continue to practice EI because it really makes a difference on leadership performance.

Come see me at ACE 2018 from October 23-24 in Toronto to learn more about EI and leadership.

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About the Author
Bobi Seredich Headshot
Bobi Seredich is a recognized speaker, author, trainer and successful entrepreneur specializing in leadership development. She has spent over 23 years of her career dedicated to creating, directing, writing and presenting leadership programs for top companies in the U.S. and around the world.

Bobi is the co-founder of the Southwest Institute for Emotional Intelligence and Managing Partner of EQ Inspirations. In 2001, she founded Equanimity, Inc. also known as EQ Speakers – a speakers’ bureau and leadership training company. It fast became a top speaker bureau that booked hundreds of speakers with large Fortune 500 clients. EQ Speakers was sold in 2012 and continues to be a leader in the industry.

Her book, Courage Does Not Always Roar – Ordinary Women with Extraordinary Courage, was published by Simple Truths in the spring of 2010. The book is a collection of her experiences and stories of women who have had the courage to overcome very difficult life events.

Her passion is to guide individuals and organizations to a higher performance level through her own business knowledge, inspirational stories and leadership emotional intelligence training. Bobi lives in Phoenix, AZ with her husband, Roy, and 6-year old twins, Alex and Gia.

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Develop Strong Self-Esteem

Why Self-Esteem Is Critical to Successful Leadership

I was at the ACE conference hosted by Achievers in San Francisco a few years ago, and the keynote speaker was Dan Harris, a correspondent for ABC News, an anchor for Nightline and co-anchor for the weekend edition of Good Morning America and author of the book, 10% Happier. I didn’t know much about Dan except for the title of his book, and I had seen him on the news. I thought he was going to share his personal success story and how he became so accomplished in news media and found his 10% of happiness through his work. But then, he started to tell his story and silenced the audience as he revealed a very vulnerable personal experience with panic attacks. He even showed a video of himself having a panic attack on live television. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been to replay in front of hundreds of people. He went on to admit that he tried to self-medicate with legal drugs and then illegal drugs and finally discovered the power of meditation. His talk was fascinating to me. This reminded me that many people labeled “workaholics” or “overachievers” might have challenges with self-esteem. And it made me question, “When is their success good enough?”

The answer to that question is subjective, and is often left unanswered for years because of feelings of low self-esteem. The actual definition of self-esteem is confidence and satisfaction in oneself. You may be very successful, and still have low self-esteem because you are comparing yourself to someone else and unsatisfied with your results.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Low self-esteem is a funny thing. It shows up in successful people as much as it does in someone we deem as lazy. It also impacts the celebration of success – did we really earn it or deserve it or was it a bit of luck and good timing? On the other hand, a high level of self-esteem can turn into narcissism. Some people who have an excessively high self-regard may experience challenges in relationships and empathy. They may feel the need to put someone else down so they can feel better about themselves.

Low self-esteem is observed in very boisterous personalities and the timid are rarely heard from individuals. Someone could be covering up or overcompensating for low self-esteem by being the loudest in the room while others have a fear of uttering a single word in a crowd.

Low self-esteem is even seen in sports and physical appearance. A low self-esteem may be an overweight individual who doesn’t spend much time on appearance or style, or it may be a perfectly fit individual who is obsessed with body image and outer appearance. It is an odd thing that is not easily discoverable until you really get to know someone.

High self-esteem is not created by receiving praise all the time or listening to motivational talks, but it is built in having connections with others and realizing that setbacks are opportunities to grow, allowing us to have more empathy for others who are struggling. It is about finding confidence and satisfaction in our lives and our accomplishments and knowing when to silence the negative critic.

Self-esteem is a foundational competency of emotional intelligence (EI) skills. Research reveals a link between positive emotional intelligence with high self-esteem, and lower EI is related to depression and stressful behavior.

How Does High Self-Esteem Show up in a Leader?

High self-esteem is found in someone who is not threatened by other ideas. People with high self-esteem have no problem in empowering others and encouraging them to be their best. A leader with low self-esteem can often be controlling and a micro-manager, and someone who doesn’t act in ways that encourage growth and opportunity for others. They often take credit for other people’s work. A high self-esteem leader is often referred to as a servant leader, someone who puts the organization first and is the most committed to its team. This type of leader is concerned about accomplishing team goals and success and not personal gains.

If you have challenges with low self-esteem or a negative voice in your head – what can you do? Here are some suggestions for improving self-esteem:

  1. Stop listening to a negative inner narrative that says you are not good enough – because you are.
  2. Identify what is the worst-case scenario if you were to move forward and take a risk and do something outside of your comfort zone. For example – speak up or offer a different perspective or question an existing program.  Would someone ridicule you or say you are stupid?  Even if they do, what does that say about that person?  Are they working from a high self-esteem?
  3. Speak confidently – join toast masters or a group that teaches you better speaking skills. The more you do it, the better you will become.
  4. Be open to feedback without becoming defensive. If someone offers you constructive feedback they usually have a good intention, and view it is an opportunity for growth.
  5. Practice your “Power Pose” before presenting to a group and increase your testosterone levels by up to 20 % while decreasing stress hormone cortisol by 25%.
  6. Be compassionate to yourself. Practice appreciation for the good things you have in your life, even if they are small. Be kinder to yourself, and imagine if it was someone else speaking to you the way you are speaking to yourself, would you let them get away with it?

Remember, not everything you think is a true picture of reality. Question the critic and be open to new ways of thinking. Continue to practice EI skills because they really make a difference.

Check out my other guest posts for The Engage Blog here. And make sure to sign up for my 2018 public workshops. My first workshop is February 9, 2018 so don’t miss out and register now.

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About the Author
Bobi Seredich Headshot
Bobi Seredich is a recognized speaker, author, trainer and successful entrepreneur specializing in leadership development. She has spent over 20 years of her career dedicated to creating, directing, writing and presenting leadership programs for top companies in the U.S. and around the world.

Bobi is the co-founder of the Southwest Institute for Emotional Intelligence and Managing Partner of EQ Inspirations. In 2001, she founded Equanimity, Inc. also known as EQ Speakers – a speakers’ bureau and leadership training company. It fast became a top speaker bureau that booked hundreds of speakers with large Fortune 500 clients. EQ Speakers was sold in 2012 and continues to be a leader in the industry.

Her book, Courage Does Not Always Roar – Ordinary Women with Extraordinary Courage, was published by Simple Truths in the spring of 2010. The book is a collection of her experiences and stories of women who have had the courage to overcome very difficult life events.

Her passion is to guide individuals and organizations to a higher performance level through her own business knowledge, inspirational stories and leadership emotional intelligence training. Bobi lives in Phoenix, AZ with her husband and 4-year old twins, Alex and Gia.

 

 

Strengthen Leadership

What Does a Self-Aware Leader Look Like at Your Organization?

Although most organizations spend much of their training budget on technical skills, a large percentage of leaders do not have the necessary skills and emotional competencies to manage the demands of the new economy.

In Dan Goleman’s book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, his research shows that emotional intelligence (EI) is twice the indicator of leadership success as IQ and technical skills combined. He further explains that once people leave school and enter the workforce, IQ and technical skills are often equal among those climbing the professional ladder. The differentiator is emotional intelligence (hear Goleman discuss his research in this video on YouTube).

Mr. Goleman has written several books and articles about how stellar career performance requires a leader to have a combination of business strategy knowledge and interpersonal skills. Many leaders don’t have the qualifications to mentor, lead, adapt, inspire, and manage others on their team.

Drawing from decades of analysis of great companies, Mr. Goleman has identified that powerful leaders excel by connecting with others using emotional intelligence (EI) competencies like mindfulness, self-awareness and empathy. These skill sets exist outside the domain of technical skills or IQ.

The idea of emotional intelligence is rooted in psychology and neuroscience. It suggests that when the emotional part of our brain, the amygdala, feels threatened it triggers a fight-or-flight response that can cause people to act irrationally.

Acting in an emotionally intelligent way, one that is self-aware and aware of the emotions and motives of others, can help rewire our physiological responses in times of stress and crisis. Providing tools to leaders on how to self-manage and successfully communicate with others is highly effective in times of tension and complexity. We need more leaders who can deliver a difficult message in an authentic way, creating a trusting environment without hidden agendas.

What can you do to start to build on your own EI skills?

It starts with self-awareness. How do you respond in high-pressure moments? Are you able to understand and recognize your strengths and areas of challenge? Is there a voice in your head that is saying you are not good enough?

To become a self-aware leader, it takes time, guts, vulnerability, and experiencing failure. One of my favorite quotes from Michael Jordan is “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”

Here are some things you can do to become a more self-aware leader:

  1. Test yourself or take assessments:
    Participate in a 360-Assessment, StrengthFinders, Disk, Myers-Briggs or Color Code. There are several assessments, and each one offers a great opportunity to learn more about yourself. Know your strengths and areas of challenge and get to know your peers and team members. Understand what ignites you and what triggers you.
  2. Ask for feedback
    Do you know how your emotions impact behaviors, and can you recognize when you have impacted someone else negatively? Ask your circle of influence how you are doing and what can you do to improve. Sometimes the best advice comes from others on your team. Find a mentor – someone who can offer constructive feedback without you becoming defensive.
  3. Identify patterns in your own decision making and behaviors
    Write down why you made a buying decision or why you hired or fired someone. Did it turn out as you expected? Understand your own emotional needs and what causes you to be triggered. Understand how you respond during pressure moments and move away from bad habits that sabotage your best performance. Identify things that have happened in your past that may not be serving your present or future.
  4. Learn from your setbacks or failures
    Don’t let a failure define you. Optimist view failure as a short-term setback. Are you willing to do something different and have you changed your game? Be willing to take a risk or be vulnerable to grow as a leader. Look at opportunities to balance intuition with reason and logic when taking risks.

Effective self-awareness cannot be thought of as a soft science or new age meditation. It is vital to your leadership growth. As a business coach, I find many leaders are not aware enough to admit they have a problem or opportunity for growth. Often, awareness does not come to them until they experience a significant setback. Don’t wait – work on your self-awareness right now and see the impact on your Emotional Intelligence, and then see how Emotional Intelligence will change the way you work and live.

If you would like to learn more about EI, check out the Southwest Institute for Emotional Intelligence.

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About the Author
Bobi Seredich Headshot
Bobi Seredich is the co-founder of the Southwest Institute for Emotional Intelligence in Phoenix, Arizona.  She can be reached at bobi@swiei.com.