Emotional Intelligence for Optimal Leadership Recap

In today’s dynamic and evolving world, leaders must possess the ability to understand and connect with others on a deeper level. AWiB’s October monthly event “Emotional Intelligence for Optimal Leadership” aimed to shed light on the profound impact of emotional intelligence on effective leadership, showcasing how it empowers leaders to navigate complex human emotions, build strong relationships, and inspire teams towards achieving shared goals. Through insightful discussions and practical insights, our panelists and participants joined us in unlocking the power of emotional intelligence and enhancing leadership capabilities. AWiBers thus embarked on a transformative journey towards achieving optimal leadership success through heightened emotional intelligence.

Samrawit Meressa, AWiB’s President, introduced the sponsors and provided a brief background on AWiB’s birth, growth & current activities. Subsequently, the event sponsors, Lead Sponsor -Yetem Trading, Emerge sponsors – LonAdd Consultancy and Le Chateau, and connect sponsor – Nyala Insurance were introduced. AWiB always encourages and motivates its members. One way it does that is by creating a space for members to showcase their products. Five AWiB members, representing Sophia Purse (Sophia Kebede), Bayu’s Garment & Leather (Bethlehem Yimer), Yeab Tibeb (Yenenesh Aboneh), and Baynate Jewelry (Bethlehem Addis) were given a platform to showcase their products and introduce their services.

Inside each of us resides a whirlwind of emotions, from joy and excitement to anger and sadness, and those we struggle even to understand. These emotions shape our relationships with others, yet we often find ourselves trapped in broken connections. The missing link? The skill to navigate our emotions in a healthy way. We inherited wisdom from our parents and guardians, but one crucial lesson was overlooked: how to address our emotions. Leaders were told to be purely logical and detached from emotions. The belief was that leadership required a complete separation from emotions, with men needing a stoic facade to succeed. This mindset excluded women by portraying emotions as a weakness. We were taught to suppress them, bottling them up until they explode uncontrollably, causing harm to ourselves and others. Now, as we strive to unleash our potential and share our groundbreaking ideas, emotional intelligence becomes an indispensable tool on our path to leadership. It is a journey that led us here, where we gather to catch a glimpse of the boundless wonders that lie within the realm of “Emotional Intelligence for Optimal Leadership.”

To share their expertise, seasoned professionals Mesfin Asfaw of Paradigm Consultancy and Steadman Harrison of Lead Beyond Inc. took the stage. Mesfin is a renowned trainer and certified management consultant with experience at institutions like the World Bank and Africa Development Bank. Steadman Harrison, a visionary leader committed to democratizing leadership development across 70+ countries, was sitting with us for the second time in our monthly events, having joined us last month for a discussion on “Storytelling: A Leadership Tool” Hinjat Shamil, President-Elect of AWiB and Senior Reform Advisor at the Ministry of Finance leads macroeconomic reforms and served as the engaging moderator for the evening. The audience eagerly awaited insights from these thought leaders on impactful leadership.

To launch the discussion, Hinjat polled the audience on their emotional intelligence journey. She presented four categories: those who were emotionally intelligent, cultivating EI, acknowledging its importance but not actively working on it, or just being introduced to the concept. Most categorized themselves as cultivating EI, displaying enthusiasm for gaining insights that could further strengthen their skills.

Mesfin began his presentation on emotional intelligence by outlining its four core components – Self-Awareness, Managing Feelings, Social Awareness, and Social Skills. He emphasized that developing EI is about skillfully expressing emotions appropriately, not suppressing them. He explained that emotionally intelligent individuals tend to be highly successful in both their personal and professional lives. They excel at networking, which often leads to promotions and career growth. Their strong interpersonal skills also translate to healthier, happier relationships. He also pointed out that while IQ is important, machines are increasingly able to perform cognitive tasks. Leading people requires emotional prowess just as much, if not more than intellectual abilities. For those seeking influence as leaders, cultivating emotional quotient is paramount. Mesfin stressed that emotional intelligence is not an optional nice-to-have – it is essential for navigating an evolving world where interactions matter more than isolated intelligence. By highlighting EI’s tangible benefits, he convinced the audience of its critical importance for personal and societal transformation.

Mesfin reminisced about Ethiopia’s legendary leader Etege (Empress) Taitu. When the unfair Wuchale Treaty was presented, she vocally expressed outrage, unwilling to mask her reaction. Etege Taitu exemplified using emotion in service of her nation’s sovereignty. Beyond politics, her compassion was shown through commanding medical care for soldiers at the Battle of Adwa, seeing to their needs with empathy. Etege Taitu’s blend of advocacy, passion and kindness demonstrated her emotional prowess – integral to Ethiopia’s unification through attuned heart and strategy. She served as an example of strategically applying emotion to achieve great things.

As Steadman Harrison took the stage, a powerful convergence of Emotional Intelligence, Storytelling, and Leadership unfolded. With his trademark humor, Steadman kicked off the event by asking, “Can I tell a story?” And so, the audience was captivated as a cascade of stories flowed, each illustrating different facets of emotional intelligence. Steadman introduced the concept of “Emotional Quotient,” or EQ, which stands in contrast to the rigid IQ measurements of the past. IQ, a fixed number that determined one’s intelligence throughout life, left some labeled as geniuses while others were deemed average or below average. However, EQ emerged as a transformative idea, emphasizing that emotional intelligence can be developed and improved upon. It encompasses four key categories of skills that we can continuously learn, grow, and change in. In closing, Steadman shared yet another story, carrying the profound message that Emotional Intelligence is readily available to us, like a hidden treasure right at our fingertips. The responsibility lies with us to uncover and embrace this invaluable resource. The audience was left inspired, understanding the vital role emotional intelligence plays in leadership and personal growth.

During the event, a series of thought-provoking questions arose, highlighting the nuanced nature of emotional intelligence. One question delved into how to adjust our emotional intelligence to foster harmonious relationships, emphasizing the importance of understanding and adapting to each individual’s emotional needs. Another question explored the connection between emotional intelligence and authenticity, emphasizing the need to be true to our emotions rather than suppressing them, allowing for healthy expression.

Questions that acknowledged the complexity of emotions and the need for personalized approaches were raised. One key question focused on how to adjust our emotional intelligence to foster harmonious relationships. The answer highlighted the importance of understanding the individuals we interact with and tailoring our emotional responses accordingly. By knowing our audience and dosing our emotions appropriately, we can create an environment where relationships can flourish in harmony. In a question that explored the relationship between emotional intelligence and authenticity. It questioned how we can remain true to ourselves while controlling our emotions in a way that respects the comfort level of others. Emotional intelligence is actually not about constantly putting on a smile. It stressed the negative consequences of suppressing emotions, which can lead to outbursts at inappropriate times. Instead, it is about healthily expressing emotions to promote the unlearning of the unhealthy habit of bottling up emotions.

In an attempt to draw a connection between emotional intelligence and mental health in a society where seeking professional help is often stigmatized, it was highlighted that strong emotional intelligence skills can empower individuals to navigate and cope with the challenges and stressors that impact mental well-being. By effectively recognizing and managing emotions, individuals can enhance their resilience, build healthier relationships, and develop positive coping strategies, which leads to improved mental and physical health outcomes.

In terms of conflict management, we saw that conflicts are inevitable, both in our interactions. Rather than avoiding conflicts, the focus should be on managing differences. The event emphasized the value of appreciating diversity and avoiding the tendency to mold others to be replicas of ourselves. It highlighted that having individuals with different values can actually strengthen teams. In a society that often perceives conflicts as win-lose situations, the event advocated for understanding the other side instead of seeking mere agreement. It encouraged shedding negative outlooks, stubbornness, negativity, and hasty conclusions in order to promote constructive resolutions.

The speakers graciously accepted the gifts presented to them by AWiB by the end of the evening and carved were the words:

“You are a beautiful creation…
perfectly imperfect…
a work in progress…
you have everything you need
to fulfill your purpose..
don’t dilute yourself
for any person or any reason…
you are enough…
from AWiB to you”

This event highlighted the essential role of emotional intelligence in personal and professional growth. Attendees learned that emotional intelligence is not a weakness but a crucial tool for navigating relationships and achieving success as leaders. It encouraged individuals to authentically express their emotions in a healthy manner and adapt to the emotional needs of others. It also highlighted the connection between emotional intelligence and mental health, conflict management, and the value of embracing diversity. Attendees swarmed out inspired to embark on their own emotional intelligence journeys, unlocking their true potential as leaders in an evolving world where interpersonal interactions are paramount.

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