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Why Entrepreneurs Must Start With Self-Actualized Emotional Intelligence

Dr. Ali Hill is a sociologist, executive advisor, business leader, and the founder of Sound Advice Women.

In 2021, 5.4 million business applications were filed in the U.S., outpacing the record of 4.4 million in 2020 by an incredible 1 million applications. Many of these applications were from women and people of color. From my perspective, this changing landscape of business ownership speaks to the macro-level transformations that have taken place in our society since the beginning of the pandemic.

As new business owners begin the exciting, exhausting, nerve-wracking and deeply fulfilling journey of entrepreneurship, there are myriad things for them to consider. In the midst of all of the tactical decisions to be made, focusing on learning how to become what I call “self-actualized, emotionally intelligent” leaders is foundational to their achievement.

What is “self-actualized emotional intelligence”? There are two components to this critical leadership skill: self-actualization and emotional intelligence. “Self-actualization” refers to when someone fully realizes their abilities and potential. This concept is at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and includes morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem-solving, lack of prejudice and an acceptance of facts. Self-actualized people accept themselves—even as they acknowledge their shortcomings—and have the ability to cultivate deep relationships with others.

Emotional intelligence refers to one’s capacity to blend thinking and feeling with decision making. Increasing your emotional intelligence—or developing a higher emotional quotient—can lead to better relationships and greater effectiveness, among other benefits.

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I believe self-actualized leaders prioritize authenticity and empathy, as they recognize that strong relationships with themselves and others can lead to business growth and personal fulfillment. They understand authenticity is addictive and can make them irresistible to those around them. When founders are in their zones of authenticity, I find that other people are drawn to them and want them (and their services and/or products) in their lives. Their authentic selves also become aspirational and inspirational models for others to follow.

To find your authenticity zones, you can ask yourself the following questions:

1. What are the three to five words that best describe you? In this time-constrained, attention-limited digital world, these five words can inform your professional brand and personal narrative.

2. What are your top five values? In a constantly moving business environment, what are the values you hold most dear and the things that won’t change easily?

3. In what situations do you feel most electric? What gives you energy? What enervates you?

The answers to these questions support the best use of your resources (time, money, etc.). Then, you can create openings in your schedule and opportunities for you to focus on relationships, which are among entrepreneurs’ biggest assets in business. Within the many investments leaders make in their companies, those who strengthen their networks offer the greatest return.

Entrepreneurs’ relationships help mitigate the visibility and awareness limitations many new ventures have, in terms of lack of brand recognition or big dollars to spend on marketing budgets. Founders and their teams have their networks, reputations and connections to support their launch into the marketplace. Through these relationships, they can transfer enthusiasm (read: sell) and amplify their messages in ways that will bring people into their ecosystem who will become clients, ambassadors, referral partners and more.

Entrepreneurs who employ an intentional strategy of making meaningful connections with themselves and others can catapult their ventures from obscurity to the mainstream. Their emphasis on self-actualized, emotionally intelligent leadership can differentiate them in the marketplace and lay a strong foundation upon which to build their future success.

Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?

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