Emotional intelligence is a vastly underrated trait in a great business leader. While hard skills, such as technical skills or knowledge, can be learned, emotional intelligence needs to be cultivated. Soft skills such as empathy, patience, and self-awareness, are all crucial for successfully leading a team and growing your business.
Leaders who have high emotional intelligence are much farther ahead of the curve than those who have a keen instinct for business. They’re more capable of building a team they can retain, and aware of what it takes to motivate that team as they grow their company. If it’s so important, why is it so underrated? Keep reading to learn more about why this trait is the foundation of a successful leadership tenure.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence, a term coined by the team Salovey and Mayer in 1990, is the ability to understand one’s own emotions as well as those of others, and to know how to use that knowledge to motivate them.
Whether you like it or not, emotions are woven into all our interpersonal relationships. Interactions with our co-workers can lead to joy, anger, frustration, and more. How we feel affects how we respond in different situations, and it’s important to be able to recognize and control those emotions while acknowledging them.
Being a leader with emotional intelligence means understanding how emotions affect yourself as well as others, and being empathetic to what your team is going through. Leaders who are strong in emotional intelligence are more capable of leading their team through stressful situations, and know how to motivate employees in challenging times.
Emotional intelligence also refers to the ability to connect emotionally with employees, and is essential for effective leadership. Leading with empathy can lead to higher job performance, as well as higher happiness levels overall.
Components of Emotional Intelligence
According to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist who helped to popularize emotional intelligence, the five main components of emotional intelligence are:
- Social skills
Self-awareness is the awareness of your own emotions, your strengths and weaknesses, and understanding the effect your actions can have on other people. A leader who is self-aware leads with humility because they understand and acknowledge their weaknesses, and know how to utilize their strengths. A self-aware leader also understands the impact they can have on their team and chooses their words wisely.
Self-regulation is not just understanding your own emotions, but the ability to control both positive and negative emotions, as well as knowing when to or not to act on impulses. A leader who self-regulates their emotions is able to pivot when something unexpected happens, and approaches challenges with a positive attitude and clear perspective.
Motivation is the ability to work towards your own goals as well as motivate others to work towards their goals. Leaders who motivate, have a healthy relationship with their goals and can work towards success in an optimistic way.
Empathy is being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see where they’re coming from. Empathy is incredibly important when it comes to being the leader of an organization. A support team can most certainly be made up of different people from various backgrounds and strengths. An empathetic leader knows how to give constructive feedback without being critical, and earns the respect and loyalty of their team members.
Social skills, or relationship management, is the ability to solve problems through effective communication. When disputes or disagreements inevitably arise, a leader needs to be able to navigate difficult conversations with grace.
The better a leader can relate to and connect emotionally with those around them, the more seamlessly they can work together towards a common goal.
How to Display Emotional Intelligence
A self-aware leader can delegate in areas that aren’t their strength. If you are a creative thinker but extremely unorganized, you can delegate tasks to an admin assistant or someone better suited to manage daily, mundane tasks. Self-awareness can also manifest in keeping a journal or writing down areas where you can grow.
A self-regulating leader stays in control of their emotions. When a team member makes a mistake, how do you respond? Do you lash out instinctively and impulsively? Or are you able to hold your tongue, take a step back and reflect on the situation, gathering all the facts before you react? Practice being calm with deep breathing exercises and by running your thoughts through your head before saying them out loud.
A motivating leader takes the time to get to know their team. If you have a team member who is underperforming, don’t jump to conclusions. Talk to them and find out what’s going on. There may be something personal they’re dealing with that’s affecting their work. You can show emotional intelligence by asking how you can best support them. In some cases, it may be a case of an employee needing more financial incentive. Either way, you won’t know until you talk to them.
An empathetic leader puts themselves in someone else’s position. Rather than jumping to blame an employee for their mistake, put yourself in their shoes and figure out why it happened and how you can help prevent it from happening again. Take accountability for the ways in which you may not have set your employee up for success. When they see that you’ve got their back, their respect and loyalty will grow.
A leader with great social skills is good at communicating both good and bad news. Instead of asking a team member to come see you with no other explanation, provide context around your meeting, so they aren’t anxiously waiting to see why they were called in. Be transparent about your wins as well as your losses, and share the good and bad together with your team.
Prioritize emotional intelligence as you lead your company. Practice self-awareness, transparency with your team, and above all, empathy. Taking the time to understand your own emotions as well as your employees’ emotions will help you to be a more effective, more compassionate, and a more successful leader!
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