The First Two Steps to Raising Leaders Emotional Control and Learning to Grow
Happy New Year! On this first day of the year, I want to thank you for following my writing on leadership. I started writing in September of 2012 and have written consistently since. Thank you for allowing me to coach you in your leadership life.
In this first article of the year, I will offer you some thoughts on how to grow the leaders in your life. If you are like me, we want nothing more than to have those around us lead at higher level.
Today, I want to introduce you to the first two traits we must apply with the people around us. If there were a leadership boot camp, this would be day one. If there were a university, learning these two traits would be Leadership 101. As leaders, we must first help our leaders in the areas of emotional control and learning to grow.
The natural question is why should these two areas come first? Why not character building, you may ask. How can someone who is not honest succeed as a leader, you may wonder. After all, when we take a look at most of the world, the biggest hurdle to progress is corruption. The core of corruption is a lack of honesty—a character issue. One can easily justify putting character first as an area to be improved and polished.
It’s true, if someone is not honest, we must work on that first. However, another step must come first before you can begin that important work. That person must be willing to learn, to grow, to change, to examine their error of their ways. That’s why I always place “learning to grow” first. It includes “wanting to grow,” which requires humility.
I have known many people who I could help so easily, but they simply did not want to hear me. Maybe they could not hear me. Their core confidence is crushed when they hear feedback. That is the saddest state a human can live in—not able to improve oneself. As the notable thinker, Plato, once said, “The first and best victory is to conquer self.” The ability to conquer self, to change self, to mold self, must come before any others.
I have never been able to reason with a person who is angry, someone who feels wronged, who is seething with jealousy or hate. All their decisions, thoughts, and words are painted over by the venom of negative emotions, pulling them into a fatal quicksand of error and misperception. We must conquer self first if we are to improve ourselves.
Leaders who have little control over their emotions usually have little control over their thoughts. They quickly become victims of the howling winds and raging seas of their emotions. A person who loses control of his emotions is like a semi truck driver whose brakes have failed. They lose control and are likely to run over objects and people. They are in danger themselves. They cause a lot of damage. Emotions, and the thoughts attached to them, can hijack our rational thinking causing us a virtual shut down of our ability to lead effectively.
When I see a leader lose control of their emotions, or at least who is unable to reflect and scrutinize himself after the emotional storm passes, I know what I must hone in on. I do what I can to address the issues. Sometimes it takes me a while to be able to bring it up so the other person can hear me. Sometimes it takes months or even years, before a person is ready to work on this. But I don’t relent if I care about that person’s growth. How do we grow in this area? First comes awareness of the emotion. Second, understanding that when we are emotional, our thinking is not to be trusted.
I don’t want to come across that I don’t get emotional. I do. But when I do, I try my hardest to be aware of it, and not base decisions or conclusions on my thinking during that emotional state. Here is an article you may like to read about mastering your emotions.
Learning to Grow
If a person does not learn the basic tenants of what it takes to grow, it is almost impossible to help them become a better leader. If a person does not listen to advice, read, reflect, and willingly consider that their ways of thinking can be wrong, they cannot have forward progress as a leader. If a person is not willing to try, risk, and learn from failure, they also cannot reach greater heights.
Earlier this morning, I spent my daily thirty minutes of personal growth reviewing my notes from my writing coach, Roger. Several years ago, I began a discipline of keeping at least two coaches/mentors a year. For 2018, Roger will be one of my coaches (another will be Steven, a hospital executive that I recently met). Roger has published over ten books and is about to publish another book on writing. When he speaks, I just listen and take notes. He knows what he is talking about. It took me a few years to get this point of learning this personal growth discipline, to have a coach or mentor. Another lesson in this area happened when I began learning from coaches and mentors. I would take copious notes, which rarely were reviewed. Finally I learned to be disciplined to study what I am learning. So today, I spent thirty minutes in just rereading and reflecting on my notes from my coach.
I share this with you to tell you that as you develop as a leader, and as you help others develop as leaders, personal growth disciplines must be put in place if forward progress is to take place. My writing won’t get better if I don’t intentionally seek to improve it. My leadership won’t get better if I don’t also seek to learn better ways to lead, if I don’t push myself to higher grounds.
Where to begin in the area of personal growth? Here are a few articles I have written about personal growth:
So, if there is a person in your life you’d like to see function at a higher level, to lead better, start here. Hone in and be laser focused on leading them to have better emotional control and greater capacity to learn. These two traits are not exclusive to your professional leadership. If your spouse or a family member has deficiencies in these areas, the relationship will experience difficulties.
For Further Reading: