There are key leadership qualities to focus on for overcoming barriers.
You might have noticed people in the corporate world adding more and more trending buzzwords like “servant leadership” and “change agent” to their LinkedIn profiles. It seems apparent to everyone that service and flexibility are a necessary part of the modern workplace, but how do we really cultivate those values instead of just recycling hollow words we heard used offhandedly in a meeting?
A healthy flow of spiritual intelligence (SQ) is vital to a productive workplace with happy employees, shareholders, and customers. Impactful leaders — who lead impactful organizations — have to pay attention to their company’s SQ.
We place a lot of cultural value on mental intelligence (IQ) as a marker of success and leadership potential. But a great leader needs to go beyond just being mentally agile: emotional and spiritual intelligence are equally important when it comes to leadership.
Luckily, emotional intelligence is a word that many people will already be familiar with. But let’s go beyond the surface-level lingo. Emotional intelligence allows you to manage your emotions in a positive way that allows you to relieve stress, be compassionate and communicative, and overcome challenges calmly — all vital skills for a leader to really cultivate.
The idea of spiritual intelligence, however, isn’t discussed as frequently as emotional intelligence. Often, people are hesitant to really dig into the concept, brushing it aside as too “woo woo,” or associating it only with conventional religion.
Spiritual intelligence, or SQ, is the ability to access higher meanings, values, purposes and unconscious aspects of your authentic self. It can be looked at through the lens of traditional religion, but it doesn’t have to be.
As long as you believe that you can connect with other people in a loving and compassionate way, you can become spiritually intelligent, bringing you closer to the people around you and cultivating thoughtful, productive workplaces at companies that can make waves through society.
Employees may leave a company where they feel undervalued, realizing that they can make choices to benefit themselves and add higher purpose to their lives. If you can become a leader that helps your employees reach this higher purpose through learning to understand what really motivates your team, you’ll be able to hold onto these people who are wanting more than the tough climb up the corporate ladder.
We all want leaders who can help relieve stress, diffuse conflict, and make decisions that have a ripple effect through humanity. On a recent podcast episode, I talked to hosts La’Fayette Lane and John LeBrun about how those leadership skills can be developed by focusing on emotional and spiritual intelligence in the workplace, and provided some tools and exercises that you can use to start this process.
How you can cultivate emotional intelligence
First, let’s take a look at the importance of emotional intelligence — the layer that starts sowing the seeds of higher enlightenment that comes from spiritual intelligence.
Even the calmest minds get emotionally triggered. Maybe your coworker sent you an abrasive email that really grinds your gears, or you feel like lashing out at rude customers in a long line at the store (Black Friday shopping can drive even the most emotionally intelligent person to insanity!).
If a person is emotionally intelligent, however, they won’t react to those triggers and cause further chaos. A good leader won’t freak out when something doesn’t go according to plan. Instead, they handle the situation with care, avoiding alienating those around them. If you can work on your emotional intelligence as a leader, you can change the culture of your entire organization.
Having EQ doesn’t mean you don’t feel strong emotions, but being able to take control of those feelings is crucial. Here are three steps for handling a triggering situation in an emotionally competent and kind way.
1) Develop heightened emotional self-awareness
When was the last time you truly looked inward to acknowledge your emotions and inner life? If you feel something bubbling up inside, are you familiar enough with yourself to be able to identify it?
Emotional self-awareness is a skill that requires daily practice to maintain. You need to know who you are: what kinds of things set you off, and what’s your emotional gut reaction to them?
We are all emotional beings, but we are often encouraged to patch over those feelings and ignore them until they rise to the surface, and then it’s too late. It can feel easier to avoid thinking about your emotions. But acknowledging them is the first step to becoming tuned in to your inner self and embodying emotional intelligence.
2) Prepare an emotional management strategy
Every time you’re confronted with a trigger, you’re presented with a choice: to react or not to react?
In the workplace, we’re often confronted with unchecked emotional chaos that can send even the most peaceful people into turmoil. Think of a time a colleague sent you an email that made you upset and angry. Your initial response might be to lean into those feelings and type out an angry, defensive reply. But will that really help?
When you encounter something that makes you mad, you have about six seconds before the amygdala in your brain will send you into the fight, flight, or freeze response mode. That is enough time to rewire your reaction.
Instead of losing your cool and doing something you might regret later, an emotionally intelligent person will manage their feelings before their amygdala takes over. Take a sip of water and breathe before you react.
3) Reframe the situation
The real crux of EQ comes when it’s time to practice compassion, reframing an emotionally volatile situation through the other person’s perspective. Who is the person who sent you the emotionally charged email? Put yourself in their shoes, summarizing what they might be feeling and its potential validity.
You can build bridges with your colleagues if you act from a place of compassion that takes their feelings seriously, even if you absolutely disagree with their perspective. A great leader will cultivate that initial empathetic response and encourage their entire workplace to make decisions based on love and support.
An organization can make huge strides if its staff can work together in a real, deep way. You’re all on the same team: what can you do to show that?
Spiritual intelligence: digging deeper
Once you’ve established the baseline of emotional intelligence, you can go even deeper.
Exploring spiritual intelligence will set you on the track of true enlightenment as a leader and allow you to really push yourself, your team, and your entire organization to be authentic forces for change.
Cindy Wigglesworth, who developed the 21 skills of spiritual intelligence, defines SQ as the ability to maintain wisdom and compassion regardless of the situation you’re in. Imagine what you could do if you set your ego aside and operated from a big picture view. Instead of patching over problems with quick fixes, a spiritually intelligent leader will look to the underlying problem in the system and take the time and effort it requires to fix it.
Once people get into their 30s and start thinking about their bigger purpose in life, they often want to explore concepts that align with spiritual intelligence — even if they haven’t named that idea yet. As a Spiritual Executive Coach, I help you lean into these feelings and establish a place of meaning within your business and life.
Making wise and compassionate decisions
One of the skills in the 21 skills of spiritual intelligence is skill 19: making wise and compassionate decisions. This skill requires you to look at your employees and colleagues with true compassion so you can become a leader that makes choices based on higher motivations for the people around you.
You can’t just empathize with your favorite colleagues — that’s the easy part! It’s trickier to view the employees that get under your skin with compassion, but it’s even more important.
An exercise that I utilize in my workshops is to take time to meditate on compassion, repeating a mantra that will put you in the headspace to look at the world through other people’s perspectives.
Close your eyes and focus on someone at work, reciting a mantra that embodies this idea of compassion: “Just like me, this person is seeking some happiness in their life. Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in their life. Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness, and despair. Just like me, this person is seeking to fulfill their needs, and just like me, this person is learning about life.”
Do this for your favorite employees and colleagues, but also do it for the people who you don’t get along with so well. Being able to exercise compassion with people you disagree with is a real driver of seeing the humanity in each other and creating connections.
Leaving the world better than you found it
Spiritual intelligence also requires that you think of your role as a leader in the greater scheme of the world. Does your company operate in a way that helps the planet and humanity at large? If you are depleting resources for short-term profit, you may want to take a deeper look at the true impact and legacy you are leaving behind.
It’s also important to pay attention to the happiness of your employees beyond your own organization. Although you will hopefully cultivate a workplace of higher purpose and meaning, some employees will eventually move onto other jobs — and that’s okay!
Make sure they learn from their experience at your company by practicing spiritual intelligence: this will allow people who work at your organization to carry those skills with them for the rest of their life, bringing positive changes everywhere they go. See the ripple effect you can have in society?
You don’t have to sacrifice yourself
You don’t have to give yourself up as a martyr in order to be a leader who practices emotional and spiritual intelligence. In fact, setting your own boundaries is vital to maintaining an organization’s emotional and spiritual intelligence.
And you will mess up sometimes: you’re a human! Practice radical self-forgiveness with an affirmation like this one: “My actions toward myself are effortlessly wise and compassionate, even when under great stress.”
An international advocate on transforming toxic workplaces by coaching and training an elevated leadership skill set, Amy Lynn Durham is the founder of Create Magic At Work™ and an author of a book by the same name.