Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Servant Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

The phrase “Servant Leadership” was first coined in the early 1970’s and centered on the concept of the leader (or manager) being a servant to his/her direct reports. It can perhaps be best summarized with the following question: “How can I best serve my people?” Make no mistake – servant leaders are still in charge, but instead of relying on their title/position to command respect and compliance, servant leaders rely more on cooperation, coordination, persuasion, guidance and development to motivate their staff members to excel. Servant leaders put other people’s needs first and share power with them.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) was first coined in in a research paper for two psychology professors, Peter Salovey from Yale and John Mayer from UNH in 1990. Rutgers psychologist Daniel Goleman brought the concept mainstream with his 1998 book Working with Emotional Intelligence. In that book he suggests that EQ accounts for a full two-thirds of the abilities needed to be a successful leader and that EQ is twice as important and IQ. Simply put EQ is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions, as well as other people’s emotions.  To be emotionally intelligent you have to the ability to:

  • Identify what you are feeling;
  • Know how to interpret your emotions;
  • Understand how your emotions impact others;
  • Regulate your emotions; and
  • Manage other people’s emotions

Among other qualities that differentiate servant leaders from more traditional managers, servant leaders need:

  • to be effective listeners;
  • have a heightened awareness of their own and others strengths and weaknesses;
  • have a commitment to the growth of people; and 
  • be able to understand and empathize with others.

The ties between Servant Leadership and EQ are almost endless. For example, effective listening means talking less and actually listening to understand and not just to respond.  Taking time to hear and comprehend not only the words being spoken but also the emotional content within the message and the emotional state of the other person(s). Effective servant leaders with high EQ listen respectively to their staff and identify both their staff’s and their own emotional state before responding and/or acting upon the information they receive.  They are keenly aware that helping shift or guide the emotions of their staff will make a huge difference upon the successful implementation of any answer or directive given.

Servant Leaders are constantly evaluating the various strengths and weaknesses within their team and seeking ways to play on strengths and help correct weaknesses. EQ plays a very large role in this process. You simply cannot have a successful coaching/development meeting with anyone if you do not take into account the emotions present along with those that will crop up during the conversation.  Successful leaders come from a position of support and assistance and not of criticism. Honest feedback yes, but a supportive plan of action and an emotional management plan.

Servant leaders strive to both understand and empathize with their team members. This simply will not happen if your EQ has not been developed (Yes, unlike IQ – EQ can be developed and strengthened throughout your lifetime). Empathy requires an understanding of the emotions that another person is feeling and going through. You do not need to have experienced the exact situation – but emotionally you can find similarities and that is what you draw on in order to empathize.

Simply stated Servant Leadership requires high EQ. Every single quality of a Servant Leader is enhanced by having high EQ. The good news is that you can choose to develop both a Servant Leadership mindset and your Emotional Intelligence. I strongly encourage you to do both. EQ has become widely recognized as a required trait in today’s workforce; Servant Leadership has also been recognized as a powerful and effective method of leading any team. Make a commitment to yourself to learn more and practice both.