“People will forget what you said and what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel” —Maya Angelou.

Isn’t it interesting that we can’t really remember the Oscar winners for the past five years, but we can remember the high school teacher that gave us special attention when it seemed that our studies were faltering? I find it fascinating that I can’t remember last year’s Nobel Prize winner, but I can remember the uncle who cared for me during tough times. Somehow, we seem to remember emotional impact – we recall the way we felt when someone cared, offered us the gift of love or treated us with dignity. These acts of kindness and our experiences of others reaching out emotionally to us made us feel valued and appreciated. They left indelible imprints in our hearts, imprints that we won’t forget.

TalentSmart, one of the world’s most notable providers of emotional intelligence surveys and other tools, has conducted research with more than a million people and have found that very successful people have a lot in common. In particular, their findings suggest that 90% of them are skilled at managing their emotions in order to stay focused, calm and productive. Emotional intelligence (understanding and managing emotions – in ourselves and in our relationships with others) seems to be a quality that is critical to achieving our goals and dreams. This is particularly true for the leader and should manifest itself in the following ways:

  • A leader is intentional in approach – they slow down in relationships, not acting impulsively, but rather deliberately developing the other and bringing out the best in the other’s performance.
  • A leader is calm – as a result of monitoring their emotions, they are composed and can exercise self-control in challenging situations. Understanding how they are feeling about a context, they can adapt to stay in control.
  • A leader is self-aware – this fundamental knowledge of oneself creates the possibility of further growth and, in fact, stimulates it. These leaders look for opportunities to grow their knowledge base and subsequently, their wisdom.
  • A leader is assertive – with the recognition that success is not accomplished without the assistance of others, the leader uses assertiveness to influence others towards the desired direction and goals.
  • A leader is fearless – someone once said: “Fear is nothing more than a lingering emotion that’s fuelled by your imagination”. Danger, of course, is real (like being confronted by a venomous snake), but the leader can make choices about fear. Fear can be turned around and conquered.
  • A leader is appreciative – when employees offer discretionary effort or do well, the leader acknowledges and recognises this contribution, even rewarding it appropriately.
  • A leader is communicative – speaking with certainty, they consistently share their message. This consistency is demonstrated in content, tone and the body language of the leader. Voice modulation and gestures all correspond to the passion, value and importance of the message being communicated. These leaders also listen well.
  • A leader is a consistent model – expected behaviour is demonstrated in everyday focus by the leader. Employees are consequently aware of the behaviours that will be rewarded and those that will be censured.
  • A leader is honest – they focus on integrity and honesty, even when conveying unpleasant news, observations and feelings. Character consistency and adherence to company values are important for them.

As a leader, people may forget what you said and what you did, but they certainly won’t forget how you made them feel. Emotional intelligence is an essential skill for leadership impact – influencing others to apply their energy and expertise towards worthy organisational objectives. Become a leader of influence – using emotional impact to motivate others.

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