The value of emotional intelligence to leadership
The benefits of emotional intelligence forming a core part of an organisation’s leadership team and culture are vast. When searching for the perfect emotional intelligence definition, we like to look to Goleman, who states an emotionally intelligent leader embodies the following traits:
- Acts as an independent and objective sounding board.
- Enhances the clarity of vision and articulation of Purpose, Vision and Values.
- Has strong strategic leadership skills.
- Has high levels of confidence, impact, and performance.
- Delegates well.
- Manages change, conflict and stress effectively.
- Transitions effectively to a senior or new role.
- Improves the effectiveness and performance of her or his team.
- Prioritises and manages time well and enjoys a good work-life balance.
- Effectively challenges and supports his or her team.
- Makes difficult conversations easier and more effective.
- Builds an effective Board and engages them.
But what exactly is emotional intelligence? The Oxford Dictionary describes it as ‘the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.’
Today’s leaders and teams simply have to have emotional intelligence to be successful. From leading teams in a hybrid model to managing internal conflicts, or personal struggles, it is well accepted now that businesses are built by humans, and humans are not one-dimensional. Compassion and collaboration are key in supporting and leading today’s teams.
We don’t need to look far beyond the daily news to see examples of both poor and outstanding leadership, often judged by us as individuals, from our own opinions and unique perspectives. This makes sense; as Stogdill noted,
“there are almost as many different definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept”.
Despite our varying perceptions of leadership, we can agree on the core concepts inherent in strong leadership. We’re all human beings, and our emotions belong to the same spectrum. Leaders that excel are the ones who have connected to the human aspect of leadership; consequently, being a successful leader is just one of the benefits of emotional intelligence.
Using emotional intelligence in the workplace does come easier to some team members and leaders than others, but thankfully, it is something that can be learned and built upon.
We have pulled together five key areas to look at when thinking about your own emotional intelligence. We encourage you to take on some of these suggestions below as well as seek out emotional intelligence examples in both your work and personal life. If you can take time to work on your emotional intelligence, you will reap the benefits and approach your work environment with a new found calm and energy.
- Having become more self-aware, the next step is to take stock of what you need to work at you’re your best and make a plan to create this environment. This could be ensuring you regularly have enough sleep or planning regular breaks and exercise in the day, particularly when working from home.
- Take accountability for errors, admit to mistakes (remember, we are all human), be up-front if a target is off track and engage with your team and line manager to take remedial action. By being honest and upfront, you are setting a strong example for your team and colleagues.
- Grow to understand your strengths and weaknesses – a good way to start to build an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses can be to ask for feedback from your team members, starting to build self-reflection into your diary to make space to reflect regularly – also, see our blog on self-reflection here.
- Take a strengths assessment – if you’d like us to help with strengths assessments and coaching sessions, please get in touch.
- We often mistake empathy and sympathy. None of us really knows what is going on for another person unless we have the exact same set of circumstances and life - which is unlikely. We can, however, make sure we enquire about what is going on for our team and imagine what it might be like to stand in their shoes. Being able to take another’s perspective is being able to show empathy.
- Recognise your body language – if your arms are crossed whilst someone is talking or if you’re fidgeting, what messages could you be sending?
- Be human and respond to feelings; if you can sense frustration or disappointment, acknowledge it in a thoughtful manner.
- When you experience a situation that generates a strong emotion, focus on slowing down your reaction and examine why you feel the way you do, with the aim of learning to make your reaction a choice instead of an impulse.
- Great leaders know that they don’t know everything – and they enjoy the learning process, set some goals and refer back to them when you’re feeling lacklustre.
- Whether you’ve been in a role for 20 years or 20 days, check in with the elements of your career that motivate you to be your best and work out how you can spend more time doing what motivates you the most. We all have other areas within our work that are less motivating; these become less tedious when we focus on and build time in for our strengths and what does motivate us.
- If you think you’ve communicated enough, the chances are you still have some more to do. Generally speaking, we can never communicate enough, and we need to continue to reiterate our message to ensure that it is heard. Check in on what others are hearing from your communication, and that will help you to avoid misunderstandings and create more clarity.
- Praise your teams! When they have done a great job, tell them. It will make them feel appreciated and inspire them to strive for success.
By adopting the above behaviours, we can create an environment that has a positive culture, where employees feel respected and valued. It takes work, supportive challenge and some discomfort to be a great leader, and we believe it is a wonderful ongoing journey that we never complete as there is always something new to learn around the corner.
Don’t stop now
If you’ve enjoyed this article, you might benefit from joining one of our leadership learning programmes where we work on building our emotional intelligence, leading ‘whole people’, understanding and using our strengths and working on making sure our businesses are future fit, ready to take up new opportunities and actively engage in innovating our new future. Get in touch to find out more.
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