Sure, book smarts and practical experience play big roles in who you are as both a professional and a person. But emotional intelligence (EQ) also carries significant weight. In fact, a burgeoning body of research suggests that EQ can take you a long way.
Your EQ is your ability to understand, manage and leverage your emotions in positive ways to handle stress, communicate effectively and empathize with others. Someone with such self-awareness can, therefore, overcome challenges, work well with all types of people and even defuse inevitable conflicts in healthy, productive ways. It makes sense, then, that people with high EQs are well-positioned as leaders.
But how do you increase your EQ to become a better leader? You can study and read and practice and train to expand your knowledge and improve your hard skills, but boosting your EQ involves another kind of effort. Instead of looking outward, you have to look inward. One surefire way to do just that is by admitting some hard truths to yourself. And Inc.com contributor Jason Aten's believes that coughing up just these three words you can make you more emotionally intelligent: "I don't know."
Being able to admit that you don't know an answer or a solution or a piece of information isn't necessarily an easy feat. As a leader, you want to be all-knowing — able to answer any question or solve any conflict with confidence and conviction. You likely feel a lot of pressure to always "get it right" when you're in charge of making decisions that affect the company and your employees. And you should because, frankly, it's your job to want the best.
"Often, it's hard to know if you have the best information," Aten writes. "It's hard to know if you're making the right decision. In many cases, no matter how accomplished or experienced you are, there's still plenty you don't know. I don't say that as a criticism but, rather, as permission to say it out loud. It's true for all of us, even though most of us would rather dig a tunnel with our mouth than admit that we don't know something."
The reality is that, sometimes, you just don't know. Admitting it to yourself and others, welcoming help and ideas, and being open to criticism are important. Only once you recognize it can you do something about it, Aten explains. Maybe you decide to hire someone who can get the job done, for example. Or maybe you give your employees a chance to speak up. Trusting and uplifting your employees by giving them opportunities to exercise their knowledge and expertise is part of your role as a leader. Not only are you there to help the company succeed, but you're also there to help your team members grow and succeed on an individual basis.
Accepting that you need more information, experience, or hands on deck takes humility and confidence, and those are two powerful traits of a good leader.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.
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