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Here's how you can become a great leader

By Sukirti Sharma
May 06, 2016 10:15 IST
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A clear vision, the ability to control stress and be flexible are just some of the qualities that make a great leader.

How to become a great leaderLately, I have been curious to understand what qualities make great leaders.

Without much surprise, I instantly hit upon the topic of emotional intelligence.

Sharing transcribes from UC David Executive Leadership Program video that I really liked.

In a video, instructor Mitchel Adler, Psy.D., CGP, discusses emotional intelligence and how good leaders use it to their advantage.

He has beautifully described how to develop those qualities, which are basically classified under four domains, in the book he co-authored on Emotional Intelligence called Promoting Emotional Intelligence in Organizations.

What are emotions?

A mental stage that arises spontaneously rather than through conscious effort and is often accompanies by physiological changes.

-The American Heritage Dictionary of English Language

The four basic emotions

Emotions just happen to us. They occur naturally. They are also subjective.

Our four basic emotions are: Mad, Sad, Glad, and Scared. These emotions primarily make up for all the experience we have.

Hence, it is important that we understand our emotional world in order to manage them efficiently.

Here are the questions that we need to ask ourselves:

#What triggers our emotional world? What makes you angry when you are a leader? What triggers you? What are your buttons?

The more aware you are of your emotional triggers, the less control they have on you.

For example, some people get triggered by lack of punctuality, accountability, honesty.

For example, if a leader gets disappointed by punctuality, instead of acting on the irritation, he takes notice of it and can slow himself to recognise, maybe they are late for a reason before they pass any judgement would create space to understand and yet honour the fact that they have a reaction and word it better.

#How do your feelings manifest in you? How do they emerge in you?

Being able to know how your emotions manifest in you, will help you to recognise what you're feeling.

As a lot of times our emotions will happen to us faster than we are cognitively aware of it.

For some people when they get anxious, they experience physical symptoms like tightness in their chest or squishiness in their stomach.

The body delivers the manifestation of emotions much faster than the mind.

#How to cope with your stress? How to manage your emotions?

Build awareness of your stress triggers. For example, when you become angry do you withdraw, do you become aggressive?

How do you play out? What is your repertoire of self-play skills?

List down ten things you do when you get activated emotionally, what do you do to manage it?

The four domains and understanding and applying them can result in great leadership skills.


Ability to know your own internal resources, to be aware of your emotional states, like your four basic emotions, to know your strengths and limitations, and to know your own self-worth and self-capabilities.

Know the difference between feelings and actions -- all feelings are acceptable, but not all actions.

Recognise that others are mirror of ourselves -- think to yourself "what's my role in this?"

The neurobiology of authenticity -- field of research called inter-personal neurobiology.

A research carried out by Danny Siegel out of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) states that we pick up on emotional reactions from other people sometimes faster than we can cognitively pick up.

So when you experience someone who you feel like is saying all the right things, but something about you doesn't buy into what they are saying, you feel like something they are saying doesn't feel authentic.

It is most likely that you have picked up on their subtle non-verbal cues that are incongruent and inconsistent with what they are saying and you can actually feel that.

Sometimes we need to trust those guts. Build that curiosity to hone your own tool as a leader to manage this most effectively.

Develop a personal mission statement

This is a set of guiding principles of why you do what you do.

What are the reasons why you are a leader?

What are the values and beliefs and your sense of purpose and meaning that drive you to do what you do?

When we are leaders, we are inspiring others with the vision that we have based on our task at hand.

The clearer you are about your vision and your mission, the more authentic you're going to be be in your delivery values and beliefs.

Self-management is another domain

Ability to control impulses and to manage your internal resources. These are things like impulse control, adaptability, flexibility, accountability.

Develop social awareness

Ability to read social cues in others, such as things like empathy, service orientation, mentoring. So if you have someone you are leading and that you pay attention with concern and interest in what their development needs are.

Relationship management: This is about how we induce desirable behaviour in others. This is around conflict management and the ability to collectively bond and collaborate.

So essentially emotional intelligence is the ability to make healthy choices based on accurately identifying, understanding and managing your own feelings and those of others.

Mitchel Adler's research on EI proved that when people were trained properly, they did show bottom line changes in increased productivity, decreased absenteeism, decreased workers' compensation grievances, etc.

Therefore, great leaders are not always born.

Looking into our emotional world and other and learning to manage them smartly and efficiently can make a good leader into a great one!

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/

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Sukirti Sharma