What makes Matthew an excellent executive manager is how he brings with him the remarkable skill of observation. He understands everyone on his team extremely well, and is always there to support them. But, being a sensitive person at heart means that he can just as easily read the negative emotional cues too, which deeply affect his day-to-day operations and collaborations.
So then, the question arises: what does it mean to be a highly sensitive leader? What impact does it have on your performance?
Does it describe a leader who tends to take everything to heart? Or, does this quality crop from being emotionally intelligent or socially aware?
Both could be true, depending on how the said leader focuses their high emotions.
High sensitivity only means that these leaders experience things more intensely. The good news is, if they understand they’re being highly sensitive in a situation, then they have high emotional intelligence and social awareness too, which they can use to their benefit.
What adds ‘Star’ to Star Leadership is how these leaders are able to reap the benefits of their heightened emotional and social awareness while spotting as well as overcoming their negative tendencies. When they hear words coming out of other people’s mouths, they wouldn’t just catch the literal meaning, but the tone, the gesture, and other such subtleties as well.
On the other hand, high sensitivity gives rise to strong emotions, which if left unchecked, can prove to be disastrous.
So, how does one know the difference between the two? How do you know which of the two groups of high sensitivity you fall into?
Here are three easy-to-spot traits of a highly sensitive leader, a STAR Leader who also has a heightened emotional and social awareness:
You Don’t Carry Your Emotions Forward
You are mindful about being exactly where you are, in the moment with the people around you and the space surrounding you. An emotionally aware leader such as yourself usually takes mini-breaks to compose themselves before interacting with someone, not letting their strong emotions from any previous interaction influence or hijack their behaviour at the next interaction.
Instead of allowing this rush of emotions to settle down inside you like sand in water, you tend to take a moment. You either use this moment to channel those feelings to produce more productive behaviour or if not useful, just let them go. This allows you to be highly observant and gain insight to understand what other people are going through.
You Are a Great Team Player
You’re always aware of the energy in the room. Reading emotional cues comes naturally to you. Your high social awareness gives you the unique ability to take other’s feelings into account, pay attention to even the smallest of details, and weigh various aspects of multifaceted decisions. You are incredible at observation, and that makes you invaluable in a team environment because you notice what the others often miss.
Of course, if you’re the one tasked with making final decisions, it can backfire as you’re more suited to offering input and analyse a situation rather than deciding whether or not to push the red button. Thus, it is a good idea to build your ability to make quick decisions based on clear observations.
You Are Calm In Overwhelming Situations
While you can easily have intense emotional reactions to criticism, your high social awareness allows you to intentionally step back and get an insight into why something like this happened at all. Your innate capability to understand the peculiar mannerisms of other people helps you get insight into a whole different level of personal dynamics operating just beneath the surface.
It gives a definite edge; it gives you the incredible ability to ‘shrug it off’ exactly when you need it.
Like a lot of things in life, being a highly sensitive leader can be both a blessing as well as a curse. If you are someone who you think feels too much but bears little to no control over your rush of emotions, then these are three simple yet effective action steps I would recommend to improve your executive presence.
3 Immediately Actionable Steps
- After every meeting, every interaction, especially the ones you felt were emotional draining, take a mindful moment or two – that is, give yourself some buffer time – to gather yourself before you move on to the next thing planned for the day and train yourself to always be in the moment.
- Pay sharp attention to the reactions of those around you. Learn to observe and read even the non-verbal cues, such as gestures, appearances, and expressions.
- Practice more listening and less talking. Be aware of emotions, both your own as well as others, without feeling dominated by them.
Summary: Some leaders translate high sensitivity to heightened Social Awareness. And, Social Awareness is a trait that generally derives from high Emotional Intelligence (EQ). But, it is not always true. The answer to whether your high sensitivity proves to be a bane or a boon comes down to what you make of it. Being sensitive to the extent of being in the moment allows you to be more observant and in turn leads to the possibility of you gaining greater insights thus benefiting your cause. When it’s a boon, sensitivity can usher you on the path of becoming a more mindfully present, more aware, and a more insightful leader. #BeTheSTAR