Why is Emotional Intelligence Important for Leaders?

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important for Leaders ?

Emotional Intelligence For Leaders

You might have heard the saying, “You cannot pour from an empty cup.” Similarly, you cannot manage a team effectively, until you can manage yourself well. This means being able to manage your emotions and mental spaces as effectively as you manage your physical spaces and bodies. 

That is where Emotional Intelligence or EI comes in.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence is defined as the ability to manage your own emotions and empathise with those of the people around you. Thus, a high degree of emotional intelligence allows you to be aware of your emotions and how they would affect the people around you.

The term is relatively new, and its use in leadership and business even newer. It has been barely two decades since the importance of emotional intelligence in leadership was established by a Rutgers psychologist named Daniel Goleman. 

Here’s what our CEO says about the importance of Emotional Intelligence in the workplace :

The Elements of Emotional Intelligence

As Daniel Goleman defined it, there are 5 major elements of emotional intelligence. They are:

  1. Self-awareness: Self-awareness is about being aware of your own emotions and how they may affect those around you. Self-awareness helps you be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses, which in turn makes you humble, and therefore, a better leader.

    Mindfulness meditation, journaling, and deep breathing when triggered are some ways to improve your self-awareness.
  1. Self-regulation: Self-awareness without self-regulation makes you a bad leader because self-regulation helps you keep yourself in check. This means you have the ability to avoid projecting your emotions onto others, and unnecessarily judging and stereotyping them. Additionally, when you regulate yourself effectively you won’t make emotional or rushed decisions or compromise on your values. 

    Knowing your limits and values, holding yourself accountable for your actions, and practicing being calm in challenging situations are ways to regulate yourself better.
  1. Motivation: Motivation is defined by Goleman as a passion for work that goes beyond money and status. Thus, motivation helps you maintain your enthusiasm for your work even in the face of failure or weakness. Being self-motivated is an essential part of being a good leader and allows you to be able to find the good in the bad, even if it is only something small.

    The best way to keep yourself motivated is to keep re-examining and re-establishing to yourself, why you do what you do.
  1. Empathy: Empathy is essentially an ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes. It allows you to understand the other person’s situation and emotions and respond accordingly. As a leader, empathy towards others allows you to understand your team members better, give constructive feedback, and listen to those who need it.

    Practicing putting yourself in other’s shoes, paying attention to body language, and responding to people’s feelings about tasks you may give out are ways to improve your empathy.
  1. Social skills: Good social skills allow you to communicate better and even motivate other people. These are an essential part of being a good leader. Moreover, leaders with good social skills are usually better at managing conflict and change, since they tend to be quite diplomatic.

    Learning to resolve conflicts, improving your communication skills, and learning to praise where it’s due are some steps you can take to improve your social skills.

By now, you may have an idea of how each element of emotional intelligence improves your leadership skills. However, it is important to remember that you might be better or stronger at some of these elements than others. To be a good leader, you must master all five of these elements of emotional intelligence.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence In Leadership

With times being what they are (especially considering the global pandemic), emotional intelligence has become a critical skill set for good leadership. It helps leaders at every level of the organization to manage themselves, manage others and manage their work much better.

We’ll take a closer look at these three aspects of emotional intelligence in leadership:

  1. Managing the Self

As already established, emotional intelligence allows you to understand and handle yourself and your emotions better. Thus, you understand what is in you and how it emerges out of you. That, in turn, lets you build solid foundations for personal power and positional power with those whom you seek to lead.

For example, as a leader in these uncertain times, providing your team moral and emotional support may be a necessity. In this case, understanding your own emotions and mental state allows you to listen to their problems without judgement and provide them with useful suggestions and feedback.

  1. Managing Others 

Since emotions often play a key role in thought processes and decision making, whether personal or professional, ignoring them in yourself and your team can have disastrous consequences. Thus, managing others is about how effectively you manage and leverage your emotions in your interpersonal relationships, decision making and stress tolerance. 

For example, in the aftermath of the pandemic, you can help your team heal by modeling behaviors and setting a stage to make sense out of the traumatic events. That way you can empower your people to support each other through these difficult times as well.

  1. Managing Work

Managing your work well, even under pressure is an essential quality of being a leader. After all, deadlines and deliverables must be met and customers or clients appeased for your targets to be achieved, no matter the emotional situation of your team. The most successful leaders would employ both IQ and EQ or EI to do this. 

For example, an effective team leader would engage both the analytic and emotional networks of their brain to maximize their potential. That is they would consider both data and their people in decision making and future projections.

However, both of these neural networks oppose and suppress each other and it takes deliberate practice and self-awareness to move fluidly between them. Considering that we usually have more of an emphasis on our analytical network from childhood, spending time and effort developing our emotional one and learning to switch between them as necessary will prove fruitful for all those in leadership positions. 

Thus, there is really no way to deny the importance of emotional intelligence in leadership any longer. It is the future and the only way your organization can soar to greater heights.            

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