To be more specific, organizations need more emotionally intelligent leaders that can be assertive when the situation warrants it. 

The definition of Assertiveness, relative to Emotional Intelligence, that we subscribe to is comprised of three basic elements:

  1. The ability to express feelings such as joy, content, anger, sorrow.
  2. The ability to express thoughts and beliefs openly (voice opinions, disagree, take a stand on something) even if you have something to lose and it is difficult for you.
  3. The ability to stand up for your personal rights (not allowing others to take advantage of you) in a socially acceptable way that is not offensive or destructive.

In their book The EQ Edge, Steven Stein and Howard Book describe Assertiveness as being much misunderstood. Based on the 360 work I've done with clients, I often see leaders that that are rated lower by their various rater groups in this important building block of Emotional Intelligence. Assertiveness involves the ability to communicate clearly, specifically, and unambiguously, while at the same time being sensitive to the needs of others and their responses in a particular situation.

The Gap Is Usually the Result of Not Expressing Themselves

Being able to act with the appropriate amount of assertiveness requires three conditions to be in place. First, you need to be self-aware to be able to be able to recognize your feelings before you express them. Second, you have to possess enough impulse control and emotional expression to be able to express disagreement without allowing the situation to escalate. Finally, you have be able to stand up for your own rights, passions and deeply held beliefs in a way that's socially acceptable, non-offensive and non-destructive.

When we dig deeper into the reasons why their raters may have responded differently than they did, it invariably comes down to the need to express feelings, beliefs and thoughts in the moment. As it turns out, Assertiveness brings a lot of benefits with it. One of the most important is the fact that to be effective while being assertive, we have to keep other people and their reactions in mind. Do this well and you'll be seen as having more Empathy as well as more Flexibility due to your ability to give and take in a calm, rational manner.

 Self-Talk Has a Huge Impact

We often behave the way we do as a result of the self-talk we engage in. Usually, self-talk has to do with fearful expectations we have about what could happen to us (or what we could do to others). In order to improve your abilities in this area it's important to pay attention to the self-talk you're engaging in while in the moment. For the next couple of weeks do the following:

  • Pay attention to the times you could have spoken up but didn't, or perhaps you crossed the line into aggression.
  • What was your self-talk saying at the time?
  • Keep a record of what was happening and what your self-talk was.
  • Push yourself to behave assertively in situations where you usually wouldn't by being clear about your opinions or desires...just make sure that you're being considerate of the other person.
Recognizing what you want, what you believe in and/or how you feel AND being able to share this information with others without beating around the bush is critical to your success. Here's a great article from Forbes that discusses the merits of increasing your level of assertiveness.

The Six Secrets of Successfully Assertive Leaders



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