Why Leaders Need Emotional Intelligence (and How to Get it)
Emotional Intelligence is an important indicator of strong leadership. To make your mark as a leader, you’ll have to bring more than just technical skills to the table. Successful leaders need to have both a diverse set of skills and personality traits that allow them to simultaneously connect with their staff, clients, and business objectives.
With this in mind, emotional intelligence is an integral leadership trait that will enable you to lean into your emotions, as well as others’ emotions, to build relationships, reach shared goals, and drive change.
Emotions Drive Behavior
To begin with, you can identify, interpret, and manage your own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, with Emotional Intelligence (EI). EI will help you understand that emotions are key drivers of behavior and can have both positive and negative impacts.
Moreover, those with high levels of EI are able to manage their emotions to increase communication, empathize with others, and defuse conflict.
Measuring Emotional Intelligence
Companies often use EI tests to identify future leaders within their organizations. Emotional intelligence is measured by self-reporting or ability tests. Given that these are often free online, you can conduct a self-reported test by rating your own behavior as it relates to perceiving, understanding, and managing your own emotions.
Respondents in an ability test partake in a variety of assessments that measure their ability to gauge, identify and regulate emotions.
The Four Attributes of Emotional Intelligence
Self-Management: The ability to self-regulate impulsive feelings, demonstrate adaptability in changing circumstances, and maintain healthy emotional management.
Self-Awareness: Understanding your own emotions, and how they impact your behavior. Identify personal strengths, weaknesses, and wants.
Social Awareness: Proficient at recognizing and understanding the emotions and needs of others, while tuning into social dynamics. Demonstrating empathy while using listening skills, and observing body language and other non-verbal cues.
Relationship Management: Create and maintain healthy relationships while communicating, respecting, and engaging with others.
Emotional intelligence is a necessary trait to develop when aiming to be a great leader. Some argue that EI is even more important than IQ. Leaders with high EI are often assessed as more effective contributors. They inspire positive group outcomes and foster an environment of trust, confidence, and optimism.
Leaders with high EI have executive presence which focuses on the ability to inspire confidence. Inspiring confidence at all levels makes you a more valuable and impactful leader. Employees will be loyal, and admire your leadership, while peers will recognize your abilities. Senior leadership will be able to identify your contributions, and take note of your potential.
Leaders apply emotional intelligence in a variety of ways
Personal emotional identification and regulation are necessary to develop and maintain approachable professionalism. Dysregulated emotions can lead to outbursts and negative management styles. By setting the tone, you’ll portray confidence, level-headedness, and reliability.
Being able to recognize others’ emotions lets leaders assign their staff tasks they enjoy, instead of ones they resent. By aligning employees’ workloads with their strengths, leaders create an environment in which staff can thrive. This facilitates mutual respect, job satisfaction, and reduces turnover.
Use EI to Create Goals
Effective leaders use EI to create collective goals that engage and encourage employee cooperation, confidence, and collaboration.
As a leader, use EI to:
- Encourage employee engagement
- Provide employee feedback
- Inspire professional innovation
- Motivate team members
- Build relationships
While some leaders are innately in tune with their emotional intelligence, most need to actively work towards strengthening it.
How to Enhance Your EI
Try the following to strengthen your EI:
Journaling: Use a journal to reflect on how your emotions drove your actions today, and how you would want to react differently next time. Name each emotion and reflect on what makes them arise.
Active Listening: By quieting the part of our brain that automatically thinks of a reply when someone is speaking, you’ll be able to assess their message, observe their body language, and engage with non-verbal cues.
360 Assessment: Identify gaps in your EI with a 360 assessment and learn from your peers, employees, and managers. Understand how you are perceived by soliciting feedback, and gain insight into your effectiveness and professional reputation.
Manage Stress: Stress often brings up negative emotions. By naming, recognizing, and controlling your emotions, you’ll develop a tolerance to the emotions derived from stress.
In conclusion, developing your emotional intelligence will make you a better leader. If it doesn’t come naturally to you, show yourself grace. You can learn and hone your emotional intelligence to increase your effectiveness as a leader. Lean into your emotions, and those of others’, and see how everyone thrives.
Brent Roy, PCC, CMC, is a certified executive, career and personal development coach. I work with men and women who want to increase their confidence and boost their executive presence to prepare them for promotion or a new career. For more ways I can help, please reach out!