Leadership and developing emotional intelligence is really personal growth and development. It is important to distinguish this. If leaders want to become more empathetic, engaging and inspiring, we must recognize that we need to change our self first. One reason why this feels so threatening and challenging is that society applies the connotation that personal growth means ‘fixing’ your self. This perception stops most people in their tracks when it comes to embracing personal growth and development. For example, let us say you were in a group setting and I asked one of the following questions:

#1. How many people need to fix themselves so they can become better leaders?

#2. How many people need to learn and grow in order to reach more of their true potential?

Notice how you feel about raising your hand to number one. How do you feel raising your hand to number two? From an outcome perspective, both roads lead to behavioral change. Which one do you think would be easier to get people to buy into? Why is this? Why do we resist admitting we need behavioral change?

It is all in the meaning we assign via our brain. Meaning becomes a physiologic reaction once it gets wired into our brain. Since childhood, we have been shamed into behavioral change. If a child doesn’t perform up to standard, she or he may hear words like: “What’s wrong with you?”, “Why can’t you do anything right?”, “You will never be good enough,” “You’d better not make mistakes,” “If you mess up, they will laugh at you,” and on and on. We’ve made the connotation that we need to change or learn negative, as there’s so much baggage attached that we never get started. After all, who wants to admit that they are ‘broken’ in public? Instead, we look at the havoc around us that we create like a deer in the headlight, paralyzed.

Heads up! No one has it all going on, and no one is without the need to grow in some area of his or her life; our outcomes stem from our behaviors. Also get this truism and you will eliminate much suffering—and I’m speaking to all of you who see yourself as ‘successful and smart’: ‘What got you here won’t get you there.’

This is also the title of a popular business book by Marshall Goldsmith. Remember that we are facing a new situation. Context also matters. I was very organized as a physician eye surgeon. I was very good at running a medical practice and engaging, as a leader, my staff. What I have discovered now, engaging my team over time, is that patients and operating skills are not necessarily applicable in a different context—as in distracted, often stressed people and audiences. If I don’t slow down and consciously install new behavior, I won’t consistently deliver excellence in my new context. It is time for the next level; that is what evolution is.

In our hurry-up world, there are so many people falling down because of lack of clarity and the stigma associated with needing to change their behavior. Just grabbing for new skills without addressing our mindset is the old, quick-fix mindset. It’s the old patchwork approach. It’s not working. We need to reflect and then go attempt to live it, in real time. I didn’t say it would not take courage.

I experienced today someone sending me an email out of the blue telling me information without context in which to apply the information so that I could connect the dots. Needless to say, it went over my head. ‘Telling’ me didn’t say much because I didn’t ‘hear’ it. I had to tell them to put it into context. When she did, I got it. Like her, I’m getting it too. That’s cool. And, I can always grow, and I’m sure life will give me ample opportunity. Real emotional intelligence requires resilience and adaptability.

‘It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.’ ~Albert Einstein

So here’s the context: we are facing enormous change. This change is at home, work, and personally. What we have been doing to get along in life is no longer working. We all need to adapt and change. That means we all will need to develop better communication skills, both listening and conversational skills. It means changing from our ‘survival of the fittest’ competitive paradigm to one that is more collaborative and genuinely cares about other people. Selling to ‘get money’ out of other people’s pockets without heartfelt regard for integrity will continue to fall down, hopefully.

We need to develop gratitude, empathy, compassion, a sense of purpose, self-acceptance and non-judgment. Let others learn at their pace, not yours. If they can’t handle the job or are not willing to change, explicitly communicate with clarity and have the courage to tell them instead of assuming they are ‘inferior’. They are responsible for being willing to change or not.

If they are willing change, maybe they just need some gaps filled in by helping them with mindset development. I thought leaders were supposed to develop their team members to be better leaders and to improve performance. Isn’t this something leaders do? And, remember to start with yourself.

What I do know about the brain is that it will prove you ‘right’. This is a challenging list of behavioral changes. If we approach personal growth as shameful, that we are ‘fixing’ our broken selves, or that we have to pretend to know it all, we are in trouble. I’ll be the first to admit I have blind spots; and if you are human, so do you.

Your nervous system will reject personal growth if you associate it with a defective self-identity. Yet, I have discovered that setting the clear intention to grow and evolve, to expand my vision, instead of ‘fixing’ myself has worked wonders for me to continue to acquire the new skills I need in my brave new world. Heck yes, I need to grow and develop if I want to be a better leader and communicator. And I’m proud of the courage I have to go and do it!

‘First, say to yourself what would you be; then do what you have to do.’ ~Epictetus

Author's Bio: 

Valencia Ray, M.D. teaches business owners and corporate leaders how their amazing brain can actually hijack personal power -- not in the abstract, but in the context of integrating business and personal life. Dr. Ray, a board-certified eye surgeon and medical business owner for over 20 years before selling her practice, shares her own life changing process. By sharing her story, she helps others to expand their vision and learn that by living with purpose and confidence, it is possible to have a more integrated, healthier lifestyle – with less struggle, more inner peace and more abundance.

For more information and to contact her regarding dynamic, inspirational keynotes, trainings in collaborative leadership and team building, entrepreneurship and coaching programs, visit her website at http://www.ValenciaRay.com.