Emotional Intelligence – why it’s important to great leadership


While there are many benefits to having high intelligence (a high IQ), many managers, supervisors, and other workers—particularly those who work in businesses in which interpersonal relationships are key—have become keenly aware that workplace success may depend on their ability to use another invaluable personality trait: Emotional Intelligence (EI).

One of the fundamental roles of a leader is to build positive relationships with those they associate with. When leaders possess such characteristics they are able to engage their team, as their team feel understood, supported and encouraged. This has positive effects on the organisation and those in it will feel comfortable contributing to organisational objectives. Having anyone in management positions exercising emotional intelligence leads to a more robust and high performing organisation. If leaders don’t have the characteristics which contribute to emotional intelligence, it is likely that they will inhibit their ability to be an an effective leader and the organisation will be negatively affected, irrespective of their intellectual intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to be first be aware of, and then have the ability to take control of your own feelings under different circumstances. It is also as the ability to understand, perceive and identify the feelings of others and be able to express empathy through your reactions when dealing with others.

Having the ability to “walk in someone else’s shoes” is a term often used which describes the need for empathy when dealing with others. A leader that has a sound understanding of emotional intelligence will be able to exercise control when feeling stressed and will remain calm and be able to communicate clearly when interacting with others.

While a leader whose behavior changes whereby they become visibly frustrated and stressed in certain situations, can be perceived as negatively by their peers. This shows a low level understanding of emotional intelligence.

The basis of Emotional Intelligence is made up of four factors: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management. All four components need to be practiced in order to create a strong foundation of emotional intelligence that effectively engages your team which drives them to work more cohesively, feeling supported and valued to better the organisation.

This factor is seen as the foundation of all others. It is personality trait that allows you to understand your own emotions. A person with a high degree of self-awareness will be able to recognise what is causing them to feel a certain way in a particular situation they will also be conscious of how their actions or behaviours are influenced by such emotions and how they could be perceived by others.

The ability to be able to control those emotions that could potentially cause a negative impact and are seen to be unfavourable in the workplace. Leaders need to be able to manage such emotions as stress, anger and fear while working, to ensure they are perceived as approachable by their colleagues. Being able to manage your emotions doesn’t mean you ignore or supress them, rather you are aware of them and able to implement mechanisms or strategies to handle them in different situations.

Social Awareness
This component works in a similar way to self-awareness. However, rather than relating on a personal level, it relates to your understanding of the feelings and emotions of those around you. As a leader is important to be socially aware of others as it enables you to see things from a different point of view. It gives you the ability to place yourself in someone else’s shoes, so you can relate to what they are feeling or saying even if you don’t necessarily agree. It allows you to associate and build relationships with a diverse range of people.

Relationship Management
The ability to effectively manage and build relationships through connecting with others. An important skill for leaders to possess as they are required to communicate, inspire, persuade and encourage their followers, peers and colleagues to motivate them to all achieve the same organisational objectives.

All four components need to be practiced in order to create a strong foundation of emotional intelligence that effectively engages your team and driving them to work more cohesively, feeling supported and valued to better the organisation.

One of the ways to improve your emotional skills is through practice and getting feedback on your performance, preferably by an experienced coach.

Emotional intelligence can be developed but it takes training, practice and reinforcement. If Managers or leaders have poor interpersonal relationships then a first step of their development would be to assess their emotional intelligence.

Assessment and feedback instruments are a way to identify which areas require improvement. Once areas have been identified then goal setting and creating a development plan that involves on the job assignments, coaching or learning from a role model. Leaders can then identify and address any obstacles to their goals, practice new behaviours and review and assess their process.

Do you think you have great EI? Take this quiz to find out by clicking here

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