The Art of Mastering Self-Leadership

Why Emotional Intelligence

Do you know how other people experience you? Are you aware of the impact you have on the people around you? 

Every person experiences you and the world differently. That’s why whether you’ve had a leadership title for years or are starting your first job post-grad, increasing your emotional intelligence is crucial to building up your leadership skills. 

95% of people THINK they’re emotionally intelligent. But only 9-10% of those people actually are. The reason? The #1 person we’ll ever have to lead is ourselves. The hardest person we’ll ever have to lead is ourselves, and the #1 person we’ll neglect leading is ourselves

If emotional intelligence is the #1 indicator of our present and future success, why do we do this? I propose to you that it’s because we don’t actually have the tools to know how.

Great leaders master self-leadership. Because of this, this post equips you with tools to 

  1. know yourself first
  2. lead yourself second
  3. know the kind of impact you’re creating and leaving on others.

Before we dive in, let’s establish a solid definition of what emotional intelligence even is: 

“The ability to perceive, use, understand, manage and handle emotions is emotional intelligence.” 

 The first step to increasing your self-awareness is to understand your tendencies.

3 R’s to Know Self and Lead Self

A tendency is anything that is hardwired into your brain or a learned inclination toward a specific characteristic or behavior. Using the 3 R’s of emotional intelligence helps direct you towards identifying what your tendencies are. 

  • Recognize - This is self-awareness. The ability to understand yourself - your strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, patterns of behavior, etc. This is the essence of understanding what it’s like to be on the other side of you.
  • Read - This is social awareness. The ability to read those around you and adapt your behavior accordingly. This is not only understanding how you view the world, but also being in tune with how others view the world. From that, you’ll know how you can adapt what you do to bring out the best in them.
  • Respond - This is self-regulation. The ability to control your emotions when you find yourself in triggering situations. How many times have you seen someone diminish someone else or their leadership influence because they responded the wrong way in a situation? In many ways, we’ve all done it and we often don't even realize the impact.

To master self-leadership “recognizing” helps you unpack how your tendencies impact those around you. Whether you’ve been leading people for years or are just beginning your leadership journey, identifying your tendencies, good and bad, makes you more self-aware and a better overall leader. 

Tools like the DISC, Clifton Strengthsfinder, Myers Briggs Personality assessments, and more are helpful guides to lean on in the “tendency identification” process. Once, you know your tendencies, then you can go on the journey of reflecting on how your tendencies influence your actions. 

The Know Self to Lead Self Interactive Model helps facilitate your journey from tendency to adapted action. Tendencies produce actions that make an impact and produce a reality. However, not every reality you create is positive. That’s why recognizing the connection between each of these points helps you accurately target the areas of growth and learning that bring about the desired reality you have for your workplace and home. 


Operating from Strength

We’ve all been in situations where the leader in front of us was not self-aware. This is because leaders don’t understand the impact of their own tendencies. This causes people to tune them out. The truth of the matter is they also don’t know their strengths and weaknesses. Even the best leader in the world isn’t great at everything. 

A strength isn’t necessarily something you’re good at. It’s an activity that makes you stronger. It gives you life. It’s the activity you do that makes you forget how much time has passed. While we could all probably list off what some of those things are, we don’t spend the majority of our time operating from those places. 

However, your fully exploited strengths are more valuable to your organization than your marginally improved weaknesses. Now, that’s no excuse to ignore your weaknesses and continue to grow. But it does encourage us to align more of our time to our strengths rather than our weaknesses. 

As we’ve mentioned above, leading ourselves is one of the hardest things to do as a leader. But, we’ve got to know ourselves first before we can lead others. So, how do we discover our strengths? 

“Your fully exploited strengths are more valuable to your organization than your marginally improved weaknesses.”

Discovering your Strengths

Marcus Buckingham has a four-step framework to help you identify your strengths. It’s called “SIGN” because it includes the four most common indicators of where your strengths are found. 

S - success; certain activities where you feel in control

I - instincts; certain activities where before you do them you positively anticipate them

G - growth; certain activities where while you’re doing them it feels like your brain is growing. What feels like five minutes was actually one hour. 

N - need; certain activities that fulfill a need of yours. You’re not drained after completing the activity, but you’re fulfilled. 

Because identifying the activities that strengthen and weaken you is a lifelong process, the Wildsparq “Loved It | Loathed It Tool” serves as a weekly strengths tracker. Simply download the guide and for one week write down the activities you do that you love and that you loathe. At the end of the week, you’ll have a much clearer picture of what your strengths and weaknesses are. 

Remember, strengths strengthen you and weaknesses drain you. As you increase your self-awareness and overall emotional intelligence, learn how to lean more into your strengths and delegate your weaknesses. 

Knowing Your Impact on Others

Every leader is ultimately motivated by their capacity to impact others. Success is defined by impact. This starts with our ability to grow in emotional intelligence and understand the impact we have on others. 

Being able to use the second “R” of emotional intelligence, “Read”, and adapt your leadership, will bring out the best in those around you. However, there are some things that can hinder our ability to leave the kind of impact we desire. 

Ever been around any of these socially unaware leaders? 

  • Um girl
  • Quiet Talker
  • Am I Right Lady
  • Yawn talker
  • Teeth Picker
  • Way Too Excited Person
  • Long Blinker
  • TMI Gal
  • Hair Twirler

While we may laugh or get annoyed at someone saying “right” all the time or doing that weird thing with their hair, each of us probably has our own tendency similar to one of these. 

The issue here isn’t someone’s ability to lead. It’s actually their ability to read a room. This concept is called “accidental diminishing.” It was introduced in and unpacked by Liz Weisman in her book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter (book link). 

Accidental Diminishers subtly and, completely unaware, shut down the intelligence of others. Here's the reality...we all have Accidental Diminisher tendencies.

As a leader, there can often be a gap between your best intentions and the impact you're having on those around you. The challenge isn't with your intentions. The challenge is with self-awareness and understanding where you might accidentally be diminishing someone else.

The Minimizing Your Accidental Diminisher Tendencies tool shows Liz Wiseman’s 9 ways to accidentally diminish someone. It also includes workarounds and learning experiments to challenge you away from your tendency and towards greater impact.

To get super specific on the ways you currently accidentally diminish Liz Wiseman created a short quiz to give you insight into your tendencies. We all have them despite our best intentions. The important thing is to grow in self-awareness and learn to adapt how we lead. We want to minimize any diminishing impacts and maximize the impacts that bring out the best in those around us. 

Take the quiz here.

It’s Not Selfish to be Self-Aware

One of the most glaring leadership mistakes we make is assuming that everyone sees the world the same way we do. Similarly, not everyone sees you the same way you see yourself. If you’re not consistently taking the time to look in the mirror and reflect on your level of self-awareness, your impact on others could lead to negative unintended outcomes. Remember, great leaders master self-leadership. This is a process that continues throughout your leadership journey. 

Self-awareness isn’t selfish awareness. It’s not selfish to learn about yourself. If you don’t take the time to learn more about your tendencies and strengths you won’t be able to make a positive impact on others. Invest in self-awareness first to unlock greater levels of impact second. 


To learn more about how Wildsparq helps organizations implement a leader development strategy, visit https://wildsparq.com/features