Emotional Intelligence for Effective Leadership in SEAL Teams
The ability to be perceptively in tune with yourself and your emotions, as well as having sound situational awareness can be a powerful tool for leading a team. The act of knowing, understanding, and responding to emotions, overcoming stress in the moment, and being aware of how your words and actions affect others, is described as emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence consists of these four attributes: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.
“There are no extraordinary men… just extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are forced to deal with.” – William (Bill) Halsey, Jr.
As a Navy SEAL veteran, entrepreneur, and leader of one of the fastest growing digital marketing agencies in the country, I have experienced many emotions and become very aware of how those emotions can have a positive or negative effect on my ability to inspire and lead a team. Many individuals try to shut off their feelings, but as much as we distort, deny, and bury our emotions and memories, we can’t ever eliminate them. You can learn to be emotionally independent and gain the attributes that allow you to have emotional intelligence by connecting to core emotions, accepting them, and being aware of how they affect your decisions and actions. My past experiences in combat required me to develop emotional intelligence quickly. A skill that takes constant improvement but that has been beneficial in current leadership roles.
Emotional intelligence is widely known to be a key component of effective leadership. Understanding how the brain operates and how the emotional response system works should also be a factor in where we place team members within our organizations. Being able to relate behaviors and challenges of emotional intelligence on workplace performance is an immense advantage in building an exceptional team. One of the most common factors that leads to retention issues is communication deficiencies that create disengagement and doubt. A leader lacking in emotional intelligence is not able to effectively gauge the needs, wants and expectations of those they lead. Leaders who react from their emotions without filtering them can create mistrust amongst their staff and can
seriously jeopardize their working relationships. Reacting with erratic emotions can be detrimental to overall culture, attitudes and positive feelings toward the company and the mission. Good leaders must be self aware and understand how their verbal and nonverbal communication can affect the team.
SEAL training taught me many things, including how to build alliance among a team, make quick decisions in high stress situations, and communicate effectively amidst chaos. Emotions and adrenaline run high in stressful and potentially life threatening situations, but for people that haven’t had the training, it can be difficult to stay calm and make good decisions under pressure.
To help understand your emotional intelligence competencies, I would recommend determining where you stand on the below elements.
Without reflection we cannot truly understand who we are, why we make certain decisions, what we are good at, and wherewe fall short. In order to reach your maximum
potential, you must be confident in who you are, understanding the good with the bad. Those that have a strong understanding of who they are and what they want to work on, can improve themselves on a regular basis. On the battlefield, a soldier’s heart is revealed. You see actions of heroism as well as shameful acts of cowardice. Sometimes you don’t even know what type of person you are until you have been put in a situation that pushes you to the limits. Empathy and Compassion: Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand how they may feel or react to a certain situation. When one has empathy, the capacity to feel compassion is open. The emotion that we feel in response to suffering that motivates a desire to help. The more we can relate to others, the better we will become at understanding what motivates or upsets them.
Self- control is a critical part of emotional intelligence. You need to understand how you feel before you react in a way that you may regret later. This is important in conflict resolution. It doesn’t do any good to say things that will not help to resolve the situation. A leader’s responsibility is to create order within organization and form a unified culture with positivity at the core.
You can’t make deep connections with others if you’re distracted. Many of us have families, other obligations, and a crazy to do list, but building and maintaining healthy and productive relationships is essential to one’s ability to gain higher emotional intelligence. We must recognize that everyone has a different perspective due to their background and ideals. The key is to find common ground and know that what you do and say can have a positive or negative effect on someone. This includes the tone of your voice, facial expressions, and body language.
In the SEAL teams you have to do three things flawlessly to be an effective operator and team member: Move, shoot, and communicate. Communication being of the utmost importance. mis-understandings and lack of communication are usually the basis of problems between most people. Failing to communicate effectively in a workplace leads to frustration, bitterness, and confusion among employees. Effective communication can eliminate obstacles and encourage stronger workplace relationships. When employees know their role within a company and understand how they benefit the overall direction and vision, there is a sense of value and accomplishment. Good communication results in alignment and a shared sense of purpose. One of the things that motivates me to be a better leader is having a positive effect on people. Emotional intelligence is a powerful tool and I hope to continue to understand how it can contribute to exceeding goals, improving critical
work relationships, and create a healthy, productive workplace and organizational culture.
This article was co-authored by Brent Gleeson and Dyan Crace. Original on Forbes here.