As a leader, you must wear many hats and make many decisions. Sometimes, these decisions are not easy or obvious, requiring more than logic and data. They also need emotional intelligence, which is the ability to understand and manage your own and other’s emotions and use this knowledge to build positive, productive relationships at work.
In this article, I will share with you why emotional intelligence is essential for leaders, how it can benefit you and your organisation, and what it looks like in practice. I will also give you some tips on developing or enhancing your emotional intelligence skills.
Why Emotional Intelligence Matters for Leaders
Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is the “sine qua non of leadership”, meaning the most essential thing, according to Daniel Goleman, one of the world’s leading authorities on the topic. He argues that EQ is more important than IQ or technical skills for leadership success because it affects how we communicate, collaborate, influence, and inspire others.
Emotional intelligence has four domains: self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, and relationship management. These domains enable leaders to:
- Recognise and understand their own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, values, and motives and how they affect their performance and behaviour.
- Control or redirect their emotions, impulses, and moods and express them appropriately and constructively.
- Empathise and understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of others, and appreciate different perspectives and diversity.
- Influence and inspire others, communicate effectively, resolve conflicts, and collaborate.
Research has shown that emotional intelligence is positively related to leadership effectiveness, organisational commitment, organisational citizenship behaviour, job satisfaction, and job performance and is negatively related to job stress. A study by TalentSmart, a provider of emotional intelligence tests and training, showed that emotional intelligence was the strongest predictor of performance, accounting for 58% of success in all types of jobs. The study also found that 90% of top performers had high emotional intelligence and that people with high emotional intelligence earned an average of $29,000 yearly than those with low emotional intelligence.
How Emotional Intelligence Can Benefit You and Your Organisation
As a leader, emotional intelligence can help you in many ways, such as:
- Creating a positive work culture: Emotionally intelligent leaders are able to create a supportive and engaging environment for their followers where they feel valued, respected, and motivated. They can also foster a culture of trust, collaboration, and innovation, where people are willing to share ideas, feedback, and solutions.
- Communicating effectively: Emotionally intelligent leaders can communicate clearly, persuasively, and respectfully, using both verbal and non-verbal cues. They can also listen actively, ask open-ended questions, and show genuine interest and curiosity. They can tailor their communication style and message to different audiences and situations and avoid misunderstandings and conflicts.
- Resolving conflicts: Emotionally intelligent leaders can handle disagreements and disputes constructively and respectfully without letting their emotions get in the way. They can identify the root causes and interests of the parties involved and find win-win solutions that satisfy everyone. They can also prevent or reduce the escalation of conflicts and restore harmony and cooperation.
- Inspiring others: Emotionally intelligent leaders can influence and inspire others to achieve a shared vision and goal by appealing to their emotions, values, and aspirations. They can articulate and communicate a compelling and clear vision with passion and enthusiasm. They are also able to recognise and appreciate the contributions and achievements of others and provide them with feedback, guidance, and support.
By developing and applying your emotional intelligence skills, you can improve your own performance and well-being and enhance the performance and well-being of your team and organisation. You can increase employee engagement, retention, and productivity and reduce absenteeism, turnover, and costs. You can also improve customer satisfaction, loyalty, and referrals and gain a competitive edge in the market.
What Emotional Intelligence Looks Like in Practice
To give you a better idea of what emotional intelligence looks like in practice, let me share with you a personal example from my own experience managing. I wear two hats: I am a CDEI and Wellness consultant to companies, and I am also responsible for managing Little Ro, where we offer Help, Hope, and Healing to those who have experienced molestation. I am responsible for people, often in a vulnerable place.
Being part of a community interest company which offers Help, Hope and Healing from abuse and trauma means I have a considerable responsibility regarding who our sponsors are. Not anybody will do. And when a not insignificant amount of money was offered, I had to say no because the nature of our work means we need to be careful about whom we appear to endorse.
Now, I share this with you because it speaks to the importance of emotional intelligence in decision-making and leadership. If that decision were made based on analytics (also known as the profit line), accepting the offer would have been the ‘smart decision’. But leadership asks for something more than safety in the maths and data. Emotional intelligence is harder to gauge, but its qualities are invaluable, as we shall explore, and a requirement for good business decisions.
Here is how I used my EQ skills to make this decision:
I recognised and understood my emotions, values, and motives and how they affected my decision. The offer was appealing, but I also felt conflicted and uneasy because it did not align with my values and the mission of Little Ro. I also realised that accepting the offer could damage my reputation and credibility and the trust and respect of my team and clients.
I could control and redirect my emotions, impulses, and moods and express them appropriately and constructively. I did not act impulsively or rashly, but I took some time to reflect on the offer’s pros and cons. I also consulted with my team and other stakeholders and listened to their opinions and feedback. I communicated my decision and the reasons behind it calmly and respectfully without being defensive or aggressive.
I empathised and understood the emotions, needs, and concerns of others and appreciated different perspectives and diversity. I could put myself in the shoes of my team, clients, and potential sponsor and understand how they would feel and react to my decision. I also acknowledged and respected our differences and similarities and found common ground and shared values.
I was able to influence and inspire others, communicate effectively, resolve conflicts, and collaborate with others. I could explain my decision and the vision and values of Little Ro clearly and compellingly and persuade others to support it. I was also able to handle any objections or disagreements constructively and respectfully. I also maintained and strengthened the trust and rapport with my team, my clients, and my potential sponsor and explored other ways of working together in the future.
As you can see, emotional intelligence played a crucial role in my decision-making and leadership, and it helped me achieve a positive and productive outcome for myself and others. I believe that emotional intelligence can help you in any situation or challenge you face as a leader.
How to Develop or Enhance Your EQ Skills
If you want to develop or enhance your emotional intelligence skills, here are some tips that you can try:
Seek feedback: Ask for honest and constructive feedback from others, such as your colleagues, managers, mentors, or coaches, on your emotional intelligence skills and areas of improvement. Be open and receptive to their feedback; use it to learn and grow.
Practice mindfulness: Practice mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, breathing exercises, or yoga, to increase your awareness and attention to your own and others’ emotions, thoughts, and sensations. Mindfulness can help you reduce stress, improve focus, and enhance self-regulation and empathy.
Learn from others: Learn from others who demonstrate high emotional intelligence, such as your role models, mentors, or peers. Observe and analyse how they use their emotional intelligence skills in different situations, and try to emulate their behaviours and strategies. You can also ask them for advice or guidance or join a community or network of emotionally intelligent leaders.
Read and watch: Read books, articles, blogs, or podcasts on emotional intelligence, such as those by Daniel Goleman, Travis Bradberry, or Brené Brown. You can also watch videos, documentaries, or TED talks on emotional intelligence, such as those by Simon Sinek, Amy Cuddy, or Susan David. These resources can help you gain more knowledge, insights, and inspiration on emotional intelligence and how to apply it in your leadership.
Practice and reflect: Practice your emotional intelligence skills in your daily life, both at and out of work. Try to apply them in different situations and challenges, and observe the results and outcomes. Reflect on your experiences and learn from your successes and failures. Keep a journal or a log of your emotional intelligence practice and reflection, and track your progress and improvement.
Emotional intelligence is a vital skill for leaders, as it can help you communicate, collaborate, influence, and inspire others, and achieve your vision and goals. EQ can also benefit you and your organisation by creating a positive work culture, enhancing performance and well-being, and gaining a competitive edge. Emotional intelligence is not a fixed trait but a learnable skill you can develop and improve with practice and feedback. I hope this article has given you some helpful information and tips.
RozEtwaria is a multi-faceted professional, serving as an executive coach, leadership team developer, organisational culture designer, and wellness practitioner. Explore our comprehensive development services.