Emotional Intelligence skills: The emotionally intelligent leader
The ability to master emotions, embrace them, acknowledge them and concisely decide how and when to act on them.
What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence (EI or EQ) is about your ability to:
- Identify and understand your emotions and the emotions of others.
- Manage and your emotions and respond effectively to others’ emotions.
- Allow your thoughts and behaviours to be guided appropriately in response to the emotional information you observe in yourself and others.
By becoming an emotionally intelligent manager, you will benefit from advanced leadership skills, enhanced performance at work, good mental health, and the ability to get along better with others. You will find it easier to cope with pressure, frustrations, and stressful situations by effectively managing and monitoring your emotions.
Emotional intelligence is the cornerstone of personal and professional success.
Your emotional intelligence level is dependent upon your ability to master your emotions, embrace them, acknowledge them and concisely decide how and when to act on them.
Everyone in an organisation or team watches the leader, and therefore managers and leaders have the greatest impact on the emotions of others. How you manage yourself and your emotions in the workplace can change the physiology of others, and, therefore, their emotions. In essence, leaders set the emotional culture and standards for their organisations.
Around 50-70% of how an employee perceives their organisation’s climate is due to the actions of one person – their leader. (Goleman, D. 2002)
More than anyone or anything else, the leader creates the conditions that directly determine a person’s ability to work well.
How? A leader’s emotional state and their subsequent actions affect how their people will feel and, therefore, perform. If leaders are not emotionally self-aware and able to regulate their moods, it will affect the profitability and success of the organisation.
How does emotional intelligence make you a better leader?
Self-awareness means possessing an enhanced knowledge of your emotions and how they impact your day to day responsibilities as a leader. Being an emotionally self-aware leader provides insight into how your emotions impact your performance and behaviours in the workplace. Self-aware leaders are often better able to evaluate situations and outcomes more effectively, allowing them to pursue an ideal course of action. Furthermore, leaders who are more self-aware can converse fluently about their emotions and maintain a sense of authenticity when discussing their professional goals.
Assessing strengths and weaknesses
A leader with a strong emotional intelligence skills can identify their strengths and limitations. They can accept positive criticism and understand the importance of continually developing their skills and abilities. They will usually request assistance or support to improve the way they lead when required.
Confidence in their abilities
Leaders who are aware of their weaknesses should be as aware of their strengths, and this knowledge allows them to ensure they make use of these abilities. Naturally confident leaders tend to welcome challenges, and this gives them the opportunity to shine as a member of a group, regardless of whether they have the title of “manager” or not.
A leader who can exhibit emotional self-control is also able to ensure that they deal with the negative emotions and impulses that are a part of the human condition. In many instances, they have the ability to redirect these emotions into more useful channels. Self-control is most evident in high-stress situations, and a great leader can display these qualities when the situation calls for it.
A transparent leader
An authentic and genuine leader is transparent about their actions, mistakes, and even their weaknesses. These sorts of leaders are ethical compasses for those around them, and they are willing to confront behaviours that they deem unethical when the situation calls for it.
Adaptability is perhaps one of the strongest qualities in a great leader because it allows them to deal with multiple projects, problems or situations at the same time, without sapping their energy or focus. Adaptable leaders are comfortable in dealing with the ambiguous nature of many professional projects, and they can change tactic at the drop of a hat when the situation calls for it.
Studies have shown a correlation between people with high emotional intelligence and those who are high achievers, academically and in their careers. Strong leaders often have very high personal standards that become the driving force behind their achievements and continue to drive them forward. They not only strive for greatness in themselves, but they also often expect high standards from those around them. Leaders with this quality are careful to set goals that are challenging, realistic and timed, all the while making themselves aware of the risks involved. The process of continuous learning and improvement are second nature to these individuals.
Emotionally intelligent leaders often have an internal locus of control, which means that they believe they are in charge of their future. These individuals will not only take advantage of opportunities that present themselves, they will also create opportunities for themselves.
An optimistic leader
An optimistic leader views challenges as opportunities. Hence, they find it easier to “go with the flow”. These types of individuals usually see the best in others and expect them to give their best.
Enhanced Social Awareness
Empathic leaders are in tune with the feelings of others, and they find it easier to pick up on subtle emotional signals. These individuals are active listeners and can understand situations from another’s perspective. Empathy is an important quality for leaders who are managing diversity in their teams, as it allows them to understand and accept people from different cultures and backgrounds.
Enhanced organisational awareness
Those who have enhanced social awareness can usually adapt this ability to understand organisations. For example, they are likely to have an increased sensitivity to power relationships and social networks. These leaders have a better understanding of the unspoken regulations and values that underpin various structures within the organisation as a whole.
Leaders who are customer-focused have a vested interest in customer service and foster an environment that satisfies customers’ needs while maintaining high organisational standards. Leaders with high emotional intelligence will have an advantage when dealing with internal and external customers for many reasons, but especially because of their ability to understand and build rapport with others.
Great leaders are those who inspire others with their vision and values. They become an example to others and live the words that they preach. Emotional intelligence is a core requirement for inspiring teams and individuals. Everyone on a team watches the leader closely, so their emotional state will affect their ability to inspire others.
A strong, emotionally intelligent leader knows how to influence others. Influence is not only about communicating a topic that will grab the listener’s attention; it also requires understanding how to draw other influential people to support an initiative. Many leaders can persuade and engage others, but influential leaders take it a step further by motivating people to follow their lead without being explicitly told to do so. Successful influencers know that the way others perceive their emotional state is critical to their ability to influence them.
Developing others’ potential
A leader should not only be interested in developing their potential – they must be interested in developing the potential of others by gaining an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as providing effective feedback.
Managing change necessitates an understanding of the need for change, as well as challenging the current status quo, and this is a very effective leadership quality. Leaders not only inspire change, but they also challenge barriers that might restrict change. Emotional intelligence is critical for managers leading a team through change, especially if the changes have been handed down by a higher authority and they don’t necessarily agree with them. Once again, the team will be looking to them as the leader. Their mood and the way they handle the challenges that arise has the power to inspire positive outcomes in the midst of resistance to change.
Resolving conflict requires an ability to understand the conflict, all sides of the argument, and identify the most positive outcome for everyone involved. Can you imagine being able to understand all of these things without emotional intelligence?
Being part of the team
While a leader might be able to stand out of the crowd, those with emotional intelligence are also able to work as a part of the team embodying qualities of helpfulness, respectfulness and co-operation. By doing this, they will ultimately gain respect and improve their chances of reaching their goals.
Reference and links:
Goleman, D. Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, Harvard Business School Press, 2002.
Science Direct – The Influence of Emotional Intelligence on Academic Achievement
Journal of Managerial Psychology – The relationship between emotional intelligence and work attitudes, behavior and outcomes
- How emotional intelligence impacts leadership