Being EI about EI

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One of the most valuable skills for a leader is Emotional Intelligence. It’s right up there with humility, authenticity and being visionary. Having the technical skills is not enough.

My strongest role model, who encouraged me to be a leader, is my late father.

Sometimes I feel I need some “TLC”, usually just after the stress and the joys of the holidays, or a particularly tough work week. And I remember how, as a child, I would go hang around my dad when I was either down, or nervous because I did something mischievous. He inspired in so many ways.

My mom is a terrific cook, so dad rarely took to the kitchen. But when he did, he produced amazing dishes. One of his specialties was “Cebolada”, a beef dish that involved lots of onions and a particular mix of spices (“cebola” is onion in Portuguese. Being their mother tongue, this is the language my parents think, count and speak in). All the foods that were cooked at home had Portuguese names. This version was his own special concoction, a complete departure from the traditional recipe. Not even my mother could replicate dad’s consistent results. He became the “Rei de Cebolada” (King of Cebolada) in our household. Now that he’s gone, I retrieve the recipe that he secreted away for us to find in his diary, which I treasure. Sometimes I’ll cook it, sometimes I just read it and reminisce.

My dad had incredible EI. He knew immediately when someone wasn’t feeling perky, without them saying anything. He’d immediately notice my face or my slouch, and say: “Let’s go shopping!” And “I think I’ll cook dinner today.” Mmmm, comfort food cooked by dad! Brand spanking-new clothes!

We would go to the nearest Bata store for a pair of new shoes, then to Teekay’s or Afra’s on Independence Avenue, for a new dress, then to Arlechino’s for cassata ice-cream. After getting home, I’d be treated to a wonderful, hot meal of steaming caldo verde (green soup), cebolada with rice and braised green beans with toasted almonds.

And that was all the TLC I needed.

As a leader, EI is what gets you to understand and manage your emotions while influencing and recognizing those of others. EI helps you successfully coach teams, manage stress, deliver feedback, and collaborate with others. It helps you recognize what your staff, colleagues, partners are feeling, and then responding and doing something about it with empathy and understanding. Leaders with strong EI create healthy work environments and foster employee engagement and collegiality all around.

I miss my dad, but I’m left with wonderful memories I can revisit anytime I need some TLC. Leaders with EI leave a legacy like that!

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