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Columbia Business Monthly

The Intelligent Choice: The world needs more principled leaders

By Tracey Sigler, Ph.D. 

Any good leader knows that he or she needs to constantly develop and improve. Are you ready to take the next step in your leadership evolution? Do you wish to be a more effective leader within your organization?

As an associate professor in the Baker School of Business at The Citadel, I not only teach leadership, but also conduct research into this important topic. In the past 15 years of my professional life, helping over 200 organizational leaders, I have learned that leadership is about creating effective relationships with emotional and social intelligence competencies and that these skills can be learned and developed. 

Think of a great leader that you have worked with in the past. What made that leader so effective? Do you remember what the leader did, or do you remember how he made you feel? Do you remember what the leader said, or do you remember your confidence when she was around? Great leaders develop effective relationships so they can help you harness your own emotions in pursuit of your goals. You can become one of those leaders.

First, develop your self-awareness—that is, be able to recognize your own emotions as you are experiencing them. Does your heart beat faster before you make a big presentation? Does your blood pressure spike when you are angry? Learn about yourself through self-assessments and by soliciting feedback from others that you trust. What do others see as your strengths? What do others see as areas that need further development? 

Once you are self-aware, you can choose how and whether to display your emotions; you can choose when to draw upon your strengths and how to develop your weaknesses. Will you yell at your employees when they do not meet your expectations? Will you quit trying if you fail? You can motivate yourself to keep going when faced with a setback, you can stay positive in the face of failure, you can continue to move forward to achieve your goals with self-management. 

To create effective relationships, you must be able to show empathy. Can you interpret the behaviors, actions and words of others to understand what they are feeling? Can you put yourself in someone else's shoes to create a personal connection? A personal connection, combined with self-awareness and self-management, will allow you to build effective teams, act as a coach and mentor, and influence and inspire others. 

You can develop your emotional and social intelligence through a formal educational program, or you can do it on your own. Start by identifying your current level of competence by increasing your self-awareness. Set goals to improve the competencies that are most important to you. Draw upon your relationships to help you create action plans to accomplish your goals. Following through on this process of self-directed change will make you a more effective leader. 

Improved emotional and social intelligence makes you a better leader, and it helps you develop better relationships with everyone in your life. You can be a better leader for your business and be a better parent, spouse and friend. Isn't taking the time for this self-improvement worth the effort?

Members of the S.C. Corps of Cadets are required to take leadership training all four years of their time at The Citadel. Additionally, The Citadel Graduate College offers an array of Leadership Studies programs, including a Master's degree. 

Tracey Sigler, Ph.D., is an associate professor of management for the Tommy and Victoria Baker School of Business.