I’m a big reader, reading more than one book a month, usually fiction or memoirs. I’ve also had these three books on the go for the past couple of months, dipping into them when I have time. As I looked at them sitting on the edge of my desk the other day, I realized that they represent my leadership development theory in book form.
Emotional intelligence, self-care, and community connection.
Of course, there are a lot more ingredients for good leadership, but those three often get lost or ignored. They aren’t the popular, business-minded topics that we often think of for leadership development. But without them, leadership can be much harder than it needs to be, it can lack purpose, and it might not go the distance.
Good leadership starts with good self-leadership. Have you ever experienced a leader who couldn’t hold their temper, or who needed everyone to like them, or who didn’t have a realistic outlook? We all have. I don’t have to ask if you enjoyed working for that leader. Those are all the traits of someone with undeveloped emotional intelligence, or EQ. Well-developed emotional intelligence can compensate for other missing traits in a leader. Someone who is lacking emotional intelligence may still be successful, but they may not be respected or experience loyalty from their staff. Their type of leadership may be hard to maintain in the long term.
The good news is that EQ can easily be assessed, and you can develop higher EQ throughout your life. It’s a great skill to have in any job, at any level, but it’s essential for solid leadership.
The yoga book represents self-care. Now, self-care doesn’t need to mean yoga. It also doesn’t need to mean bubble baths, or massages, or wine. The most important thing about self-care is figuring out what it means for you, and then making time for it. If you’re a leader who never takes time for self-care, you will quickly suffer from lack of energy and poor health, and you won’t have the stamina for leadership in the long-term. You’ll might also become cranky and bitter – not a good combination for someone who's leading people and projects.
Self-care on the most basic level can mean taking care of yourself throughout the work day. Drinking water, cutting back on caffeine, making sure you eat lunch. Research shows that leaders who take time to do nothing – stare out the window and daydream for a few minutes – are more successful, because they give themselves time to process and come up with new ideas. Figure out your own self-care and then do it. It’s simple but not always easy.
Finally, the LinkedIn book. I will confess that this book is aimed at entrepreneurs who are growing their business using social media. But LinkedIn represents a connection to community, and that connection is vital if your leadership is going to have purpose. Purpose can be found in volunteering, mentoring, networking, keeping up with your industry, and or even continuing to develop your own skills. Working in a bubble as a leader can get old pretty fast.
It's true what they say: “It’s lonely at the top”.
You need to make connections with others to put your work into context. Sometimes talking to people about your challenges, or hearing what someone else is working on will give you a new and helpful perspective. Using your leadership position to give others a hand up the ladder can be extremely rewarding.
Emotional intelligence, self-care, and connection. Think about how these areas can enhance your personal growth, either as a leader or a valuable individual contributor.