From a very young age, we are taught how to read and write, we are taught about sciences, mathematics, languages, fine arts, and social studies. Unfortunately, though, we are not taught the fundamental skills of emotional intelligence (EI) – the ability to use the information provided by our emotions in an effective and meaningful way; to act appropriately in the face of daily challenges.
Emotionally intelligent individuals are self-aware, better able to regulate their actions, and have more empathy for others. An increased level of emotional intelligence can also help individuals manage stress better, build healthier relationships, be more effective at work, and more fulfilled in general. Effective elements of leadership skills include these qualities and soft skills.
Increasing your emotional intelligence means increasing your emotional awareness of both yourself and others. People with high emotional intelligence are able to recognize and manage their own emotions while also being aware of and considering others’ feelings. Being in tuned with how you are projecting yourself and how others perceive your energy is a good indicator for your EI.
Human Resources professionals insist that while a high IQ might get someone hired, a high EQ will get them promoted! Emotional intelligence skills are critical for career success – your attitude, your work ethic, your communication, conflict management, and stress management.
Consequently, why aren’t schools emphasizing these emotional intelligence skills in the classroom?
As a university professor, I see it almost every day. We instructors cause a lot of stress for our students, but we never think to teach them how to manage it. We put students in teams; but rarely teach them exactly how to work within those teams – or give them any guidelines on how to collaborate with others who have different personalities, communication styles, or may be from different cultures.
The same holds true in the corporate world. Corporations seem to expect people to know how to behave on the job. They assume employees innately know the importance of being on time, taking initiative, being friendly, thinking clearly under pressure and producing high quality work.
Emotional intelligence is an important skill to have if you want to be an effective and efficient leader – “high EI is a [strong] predictor of success.” EI has the ability to affect various aspects in your leadership role. “Being able to relate behaviours and challenges of emotional intelligence on workplace performance is an immense advantage in building an exceptional team.”
Leadership in today’s environment is all about inspiring, motivating, and igniting passion in others. This helps attract and retain top talent, in addition to increasing productivity. So, how do we coach people to inspire, motivate, and ignite passion? This is done through developing the skills of leading with emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is important in being a successful leader because it helps defeat communication deficiencies that are detrimental to any group and team. When leadership roles are filled with individuals who are not yet emotionally intelligent, communication difficulties arise – team members are not heard, leaders are not able to adapt to individual needs, and messages are lost in the midst of the chaos.
Effective leaders are able to lead their fellow people by understanding their needs and reacting to those needs not from raw emotions, rather, from self-awareness – “How are my verbal and nonverbal communication styles affecting my team?”
The following are the four key emotional intelligence skills you need to build and enhance to be an effective leader.
Self-awareness is your ability to recognize, understand, and regulate your own emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. Being self-aware means to fully understand your personal values, beliefs, motivations, strengths, fears, and limitations. When you know what is important to you, and the external factors which challenge you, you will be able to react in a controlled manner, rather than blowing up without first assessing the situation. This, of course, is an integral characteristic for being a strong leader. There is nothing worse than being in a leadership position and projecting your insecurities to those who you are trying to lead; when you don’t truly know who you are and what you need to work on, the people who are following you, will feel just as lost as you appear.
As one of your major duties in a leadership role, you need to be able to foster a positive work environment. Being able to practice self-management means staying focused and composed when times are difficult and trying. This is another important characteristic that leaders need to have.
If you lose your calm and controlled demeanour when situations turn challenging and chaotic, your team members may feel and internalize your energy, and they can project the same disordered dynamic. Inevitably, a lack of self-management will affect your work environment in a significant way – remember, when people look at you as the leader of the pack, they turn to you for cues on how to react and how to respond.
Being socially aware is having the ability to practice compassion. Though closely related, compassion and empathy show differences in their nature. Compassion is the ability to show concern with one’s suffering or needs, whereas, empathy is the capability to understand those feelings and appreciate them as if they were yours – putting yourself in others’ shoes.
Practicing compassion and empathy is imperative in any leadership role. It nurtures a sense of trust between you, the leader, and the individuals you are trying to lead; trust in a group strengthens your personal and collaborative relationships, positioning you in a role of a strength.
Have Well-Maintained Relationships
Emotionally intelligent leaders have well-maintained relationships. They are able to develop and maintain relationships both outside and inside their positions. Conflicts are inevitable. But how are you managing them? Are you a person who blows up and makes the situation worse? Or are you a person who acknowledges the situation and tries to mend the problem, turning it to something productive? If you are the latter of the two, then you are on the right track for exhibiting emotional intelligence. Leaders who are adept to this skill know that conflicts will arise undoubtedly. However, these leaders are able to push through the superficial issues and turn it around into a productive experience which the entire team can benefit from.
There it is, the four personal skills you will need to develop if you want to grow into the kind of powerful, yet personable leader, you want to become.
Remember, as an organizational leader, you are leading people, and people have feelings. Ultimately, this means that you are also managing people’s feelings so they are able to produce quality work. Improving your emotional intelligence through the use of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and maintaining relationships, you are en-route to honing in your leadership skills.