Emotional Intelligence in Uncertain Times for Leaders (4)


Last time, we took a break from our emotional intelligence episodes to discuss health and wellbeing. This edition, we will discuss ten unhelpful strategies we often use to cope with uncertainty, stress, pressure and life challenges. This will help us to become better aware of these behaviours during difficult times and replace them with helpful action strategies.


Negative self-talk: When uncertainty and challenges are the order of the day, people often communicate negatively to themselves. Thoughts like, “I am not good enough”, “I am not smart enough” and “I am a disappointment” often come to people’s hearts. These thoughts affect their self-image and self-esteem, which deplete their confidence and ability to solve problems during uncertain times. Leaders must replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk.

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Complaining: When things are tough and it seems there is no light at the end of the tunnel, people often complain about their challenges, wallowing in self-pity. Finding excuses for why things are not going according to their plan. However, leaders take massive action to solve personal and organizational problems instead of complaining. They focus their energy, thought and time finding solutions.


Blaming: In the middle of turmoil, it is easier to blame others than to take personal responsibility to create results. In fact, it is also easier to blame oneself than to take massive actions towards progress. Blaming yourself or others doesn’t solve any problem but compounds it the more. Successful leaders are those who complain less and do more.

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Procrastination: The habit of postponing what should be done today to tomorrow only leads to lack of productivity and performance. However, when things are tough taking action can really be difficult because of feelings. Emotional intelligent leaders are resilient during uncertain times. They know that taking consistent actions with flexibility will lead them to the answers they yearn for. So, they keep taking action. Regardless of how they feel, they show up.


Avoidance: It is easy to avoid difficult discussions, situations or people that will make us feel uncomfortable than to confront them. Yet, our next level lies in learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. In fact, too much comfort is not good for leaders. Great leaders must keep striving to achieve growth and progress. Face what is facing you squarely and challenge what is challenging you; that is the sure path to success and greatness.


Denial: Have you ever seen someone whose hands and legs are shaking during a conversation or presentation and yet denies the fact that he or she is afraid? Have you met people whose body language, voice and facial expression reveal rage and yet deny the fact that they are angry? Successful leaders are those who accept and acknowledge their emotions but work on it to a state of ideal. Acceptance is the first step towards self-awareness.

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Yelling/Screaming: Do you know any kind leader who yells under pressure or screams under stress? Some leaders cope with stress and pressure by screaming or yelling. Studies have however shown that when people yell, it shows they lack self-confidence in the moment and to make up for that, they yell or scream to drive their point home. Leaders must overcome the urge to scream or yell regardless of the situation, circumstance or uncertainty they find themselves in. To be always cool, calm and relaxed is a real power leaders must cultivate and imbibe.


Unhealthy habits: During difficult times people can easily develop unhealthy habits towards eating, sleeping or exercise. It is either they starve themselves or they overeat; either they hardly sleep at night or are always on the bed; either they exercise too much or remain in a particular place throughout the day. Leaders must learn to maintain healthy habits at all times, regardless of the certainty or uncertainty surrounding them. A healthy lifestyle is a must and not an option for successful leaders.


Substances abuse: One of the common strategies people use to cope with stress and uncertainty is abusing alcohol, drugs and psychoactive substances to forget their problems and feel good about their life. During my thesis for my first master’s degree at the University of Lagos, I found out the number one reason people abuse substances is for performance. And the side effects are both short term and long term. Real leaders embrace uncertainties; they turn uncertainties to certainties and certainties to confidence.

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Ignoring the problem: Many leaders suffer from chronic stress and burnout because they often ignore their wellbeing. For example, if you have too much responsibility on your neck, applying helpful action strategies to cope with stress is not enough; you must solve the problems from the root. What you can do is to either delegate some of your responsibility or reprioritise your work so that you can have more time for rest and self.


ACTION STRATEGY: Identify which ones of the above unhelpful action strategies you currently use to cope with stress, uncertainty and life challenges. Then commit to replacing them with helpful strategies.


AFFIRMATION: I turn problems to challenges, and challenges to opportunities. I am blessed and highly favoured.


Sesan Kareem serves as Regional manager Pharmaplus, www.pharmaplus.com.ng and Principal Consultant, Sesan Kareem Institute, www.seaankareem.com.ng.


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