Emotional intelligence affects everything from people’s communication styles to their decision-making abilities. To be effective, leaders need to work diligently to develop and improve their emotional intelligence.
By fostering their emotional intelligence, individuals can become better at recognizing and responding to the emotions of people around them. They can also improve their ability to deal with their own emotions.
The emotions that leaders exhibit can have a significant influence on the people around them. As a result, it is important to understand and manage these effects.
Leaders who can control their emotions and respond appropriately to those of their teams are much more likely to succeed than those who constantly shout, lose their temper, or speak over people.
The first step in developing emotional intelligence is understanding the five elements of which it is comprised. These five traits were first described by Daniel Goleman, a psychologist who has helped articulate the concept of emotional intelligence.
Developing emotional intelligence means paying attention to all five elements in your everyday interactions. It also means working proactively to identify and address any weaknesses. The five aspects of emotional intelligence are:
By improving their social skills, leaders can improve their ability to excite their employees about new projects, resolve conflicts effectively, and successfully manage change. The foundation of social skills lies in excellent communication.
When leaders learn how to read body language and listen actively, they can pick up on many of the small cues that speak to deeper emotions running beneath the words that are spoken. Appealing to these emotions makes people feel heard, building trust that can be leveraged to address conflicts and introduce new ideas.
Social skills also involve praising employees. By praising effectively and when it is due, leaders build loyalty that can help them manage employees more effectively.
Defined as the ability to put oneself in the position of another, empathy is a critical skill for management. Empathetic leaders are able to provide constructive feedback and challenge employees to see new points of view.
In addition, empathy helps leaders identify who needs support and determine how they can help their employees develop. Without empathy, leaders will quickly lose the respect of their teams.
Becoming more empathetic involves actively considering other points of view. Whenever leaders are feeling stubborn, they should challenge themselves to consider why the other side also feels so strongly about the issue.
Leaders should also strive to address emotions when they encounter them. For example, when asking a team member to work late, it is appropriate to express appreciation and identifying possible compensation, such as coming in late the next morning.
Addressing emotion makes people feel understood. This can combat any notion that a leader is taking advantage.
Many people think of emotional intelligence as something that involves dealing with other people. However, it is just as important to embrace introspection. Self-awareness means acknowledging one’s current emotions and their impact on actions, as well as how those actions could affect others.
For those in leadership positions, self-awareness also involves having a clear understanding of personal strengths and weaknesses and acting accordingly. To build better self-awareness, leaders may want to begin keeping a journal.
Spending some time each day writing down one’s experiences can help people become much more analytical of their actions. From there, it can help them start to recognize problematic patterns.
The other key to increasing self-awareness is to slow down, especially when strong emotions rise, and think about why the feeling is there. This analysis helps avoid hasty, instinctive reactions.
Self-awareness leads to self-regulation. Leaders need to be humble and stable as much as possible. Good self-regulators avoid making brash decisions, putting themselves in questionable positions, or acting on prejudices. Practice calmness. Taking deep breaths is an important exercise in gaining and maintaining composure.
Self-regulation, said Goleman, also involves personal accountability. Leaders need to take an inventory of their values and understand exactly what they stand for. This inventory helps individuals know when they will and when they will not compromise.
Having a strong ethical code is important for earning and maintaining respect from employees as it makes the leader more predictable. If something goes wrong, leaders need to help themselves accountable and accept the consequences.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of emotional intelligence is motivation. However, leaders clearly need to be self-motivated. Understanding how motivation works can help leaders understand why others act the way that they do. It can also help leaders encourage others to change their behavior, if necessary.
Leaders need to think hard about why they do their jobs as well as what motivates them to come to the office every day. Employees likely do not have the same motivations as their supervisors. However, leaders can draw on their own motivations to relate to those of their team members.
Motivation fosters optimism and fortifies individuals against challenges. Through motivation, leaders remain ready to take on any challenge, rallying their team members to help. Importantly, motivation is contagious. When motivated leaders are excited about tackling a problem, their employees feed off that excitement.