Emotional intelligence has emerged as a valuable skill for any successful leader. Now, as we prepare for the future of work in uncertain times, it is more important than ever. From physical and health concerns to economic challenges and balancing family demands, the anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is proof that control is often an illusion. While this year has been particularly difficult on a widespread level, stress is inevitable in every phase of life, and growing your capacity to manage it is essential to your success.
One key element of emotional intelligence is mindfulness – a mindset of truthful, positive, and proactive awareness of oneself and others. Rooted in recognizing your own humanity and working with the humanity of the people around you, mindfulness is a powerful tool not only in your personal life but in your professional life as well. Even in the most challenging circumstances, a mindful leader can remain steady and continue to make thoughtful, strategic, and forward-thinking decisions. In an era of change and uncertainty, this kind of professional leadership stands out among others and will make all the difference in the direction of an organization.
As a professional mindfulness coach and instructor for the Emotional Intelligence and Resilience Professional Certificate, Tiffany Andras-Myers has seen this first-hand.
“The well-being of an organization can be powerfully determined by the well-being of the people leading it. If mindfulness is incorporated into the leadership strategy, the positive effects will trickle down to the rest of the organization."
With a master's in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Georgia Tech, Andras-Myers is also acutely aware of how we are physiologically wired to react during times of stress.
While stress is not inherently bad in isolated circumstances, chronic stress is debilitating and negatively impacts cognitive performance, opening the door to becoming reactive and impulsive. As a leader, it’s impossible to evade stress, but you can train your brain to use it to your advantage. Since stress operates from the unconscious brain (along with your emotions), rather than the conscious brain (where your reasoning takes place), it’s vital to translate that unconscious feeling into your conscious reasoning. During stressful experiences, making a conscious effort to stay emotionally connected – to pause and breathe – will make you more acute and resilient in your decision-making.
Learning to better manage your stress will also lead to a more powerful, empathy-based mindset. “Our capacity to be leaders fundamentally comes from our ability to connect to the humanity of the people we’re leading, and we can’t do that unless we’ve connected to our own humanity,” says Andras-Myers.
Leaders of organizations, by the nature of their role, set the tone for the entire organization. The more you are aware of yourself, the more you can connect with another person in understanding and compassion. As a result, you become more supportive and encouraging, consequently making others feel more comfortable admitting mistakes and moving forward. These characteristics are essential to a great leader.
Additionally, companies that care more about people are proven to be more successful than those that care more about productivity and finances, enjoying lower staff turnover rates, lower occupational stress, sharper decision making, more effective leadership, better team performance, and higher productivity. As Andras-Myers puts it, “There's a culture of success instead of a culture of failure.”
Mindfulness will set you apart as an effective leader. As you learn to embrace humanity, allowing it to influence the way you communicate with others and using it to effectively address the needs of your organization, you will launch your organization into a direction of growth and success. If you'd like to learn to integrate mindfulness into your leadership, consider Georgia Tech Professional Education’s newest professional certificate: Emotional Intelligence and Resilience.
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