A key component of good EQ is the ability to be “self defined.” A self defined individual is one who understands who they are, is comfortable with who they are and can clearly articulate their own positions in a way that does not force others to agree and does not demonize those who disagree.
It is the ability to say, “This is what I think, (and why), now tell me how you see it.” In doing this the leader has made his or her position clear along with their rationale and has opened the door for honest conversation that can hopefully lead to a shared understanding.
Central to being self defined is to do so in a way that allows dialogue to take place even with those who might strenuously disagree with us. Some leaders cannot do this. They can state their position but cannot stay connected relationally with those who disagreed with them – thus the conversation is over without any resolution.
The ability to have a position and stay connected with others who disagree is a key component to healthy relationships. It is usually in on-going dialogue that one comes to mutually acceptable conclusions as long as we are dealing with people who also have a level of EQ health. Discussions with those who lack EQ often go nowhere. Thus our ability to understand the EQ of those we are dealing with becomes a factor in how we deal with them.
Self definition requires leaders to think well before they state a position. But their flexibility and invitation for dialogue also leaves the door open to further discussion and modification of their views. This is why a non-defensive attitude on their part is so critical. If staff know that they can honestly push back without repercussions and know they will also be heard it is often possible to come to a more refined position that works for everyone.
Self definition is a powerful leadership tool because it goes to the values, convictions, attitudes and actions that a leader has and the more consistent these are the more security those who work for them have. They know what to expect, they know what the guiding principles and convictions are and they know that these are not going to change.
For instance, all of my staff know that when something really needs to get done I will say “Whatever it takes.” Part of my own self definition is the conviction that when it is the right thing to do I will always default to that principle. Therefore, they know that they have the permission to do the same when something critical needs to happen.
The more defining the leader is the more clarity staff have on how they operate within the organization or team. My convictions on partnerships, multiplication, empowerment and team, for instance are clearly understood and become guides to staff on how they operate. My own self definition as a leader is a secure foundation for those who work with me.
Leaders who lack such definition, and are unpredictable are difficult to work for because there is not an accurate compass for others to follow. This is the case with leaders whose idea of the day becomes their mantra until the next idea pops up. Unpredictable leaders are difficult if not impossible leaders to follow.
Being self defined also means that we can separate ourselves from the issues of others and not fall into the trap of enmeshment or triangulation in relationships. We take responsibility for the issues we have with others and seek to help others resolve what they need to resolve but we are able to separate ourselves from those issues and not become drawn into them.