As a leader, understanding how what you do affects others and understanding how what others do affects you is crucial. Enter emotional intelligence (EQ or EI)!
Picture a high-stakes corporate meeting where two leaders, Andy and Mel, vie for control of a critical decision. Both are highly qualified, but their approaches differ significantly. Andy relies solely on data and logic, while Mel understands the power of emotional intelligence.
As Andy presents a cold, analytical analysis, tension mounts in the room. Mel, however, embraces EQ. She listens empathetically to her team’s concerns, fostering trust and collaboration. In the end, her leadership wins out, leading to a decision that benefits the company and strengthens team bonds.
This is the power of EQ. So, let’s dive deeper into why emotional intelligence for leaders matters and how you can grow yours.
What is emotional intelligence?
First, let’s define what EQ actually is.
Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to recognise and manage your own emotions and understand the emotions of those around you. In other words, it’s exactly what artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t!
According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, the man who brought the concept mainstream with his book ‘Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ’, EQ involves four key skills and competencies:
- Self-awareness – Recognising and understanding your own emotions and how they can affect your thoughts, decisions and actions
- Self-regulation (management) – The ability to control and manage your emotions in various situations, for example, staying calm under pressure
- Social awareness – The ability to see and understand the emotions and needs of others, which involves empathy and boosts connection
- Relationship management – Using your emotional awareness and social skills to navigate and manage your interactions with others
Emotional intelligence and self-management
Self-regulation (or self-management) plays a big role in emotional intelligence.
Not only is this skill about controlling your emotional reactions, but it also means doing so while still behaving with honesty and integrity.
Emotionally Intelligent people don’t let bad moods or strong emotional reaction govern their behaviour. Instead, they can be calmly frank and honest without attacking others.
When moods or feelings are too strong to set aside, an emotionally intelligent person lets others know they’re upset and how long this will likely last so they know what to expect and can adjust.
Having strong EQ and being able to communicate a feeling is critical in helping others to identify their feeling/stress levels/emotion and name, communicate and manage that emotion in a meaningful way.
Emotional intelligence for leaders: Why it matters
Numerous studies have shown that leaders with higher emotional intelligence tend to have better relationships, higher job performance, improved leadership abilities, and better overall wellbeing.
When you have strong emotional intelligence in leadership, you’re able to:
- Establish and maintain strong relationships
- Communicate more effectively
- Foster teamwork and collaboration
- Make better decisions
- Keep your cool under pressure
- Create higher levels of engagement
- Engage in better conflict management
- Show greater empathy
- Be resilient in the face of change
- Prioritise employee wellbeing
Here are some interesting stats:
- 90% of top performers have above-average emotional intelligence
- 75% of the Fortune 500 use emotional intelligence training
- Emotionally intelligent people earn US$29,000 more on average—which works out as approximately AUD$42,800!
In 2020, the World Economic Health Forum listed social and emotional intelligence in the top six ‘intelligences’ that are the building blocks of new smart leadership.
Examples of emotional intelligence in the workplace
Here are some examples of what a successful leader tapping into their emotional intelligence looks like:
- Role modelling moral and fair behaviour
- Transparency and confidence
- Support for employee growth
- Nurturing employees towards their highest performance levels
- Shared purpose and hopeful vision
- Employees who are compelled and inspired to exceed goals
- Innovative thinking—pushing towards the 1% improvements
- Risk-taking that spurs ingenuity and autonomy
- Not using the ‘f’ word (failure!), but framing it as lessons learnt
- The valuing of knowledge across all team members
- Challenges approached as opportunities to learn
How to grow your emotional intelligence
Knowing all this, hands up if you’re keen to understand and grow your own emotional intelligence skills? Doing so can only be a positive, right?
Here are some practical tips that can help you enhance and develop it:
- Engage in self-reflection – Take time to reflect on your emotions, thoughts and reactions in different situations.
- Keep a journal – Write down your feelings and experiences to identify your own emotional triggers and patterns.
- Seek honest feedback – Ask friends, colleagues and family members for their honest feedback.
- Practice mindfulness – By practising mindfulness and meditation, you can become more aware of your feelings and emotions.
- Develop healthy coping strategies – Use exercise, eating well, breathing and time management to manage stress.
- Pause before you react – When faced with a strong emotion, take a moment to pause and think before responding impulsively.
- Engage in active listening – Pay close attention to others when they speak, and try to put yourself in their shoes to understand their perspective.
- Observe social cues – Pay attention to body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice to better understand the emotions of others.
- Cultivate a diverse network – Interact with people from various backgrounds and perspectives to broaden your understanding of different emotions and cultures.
- Practice effective communication – Use clear and respectful communication, focusing on both verbal and non-verbal cues.
- Read about EQ – Explore books, articles, and resources on emotional intelligence to deepen your understanding. We recommend ‘AI, Automation, and the Quest to Reclaim What Makes Us Unique’ by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.
- Take courses or workshops – Consider enrolling in courses or attending workshops that focus on emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills.
Drive success with your emotions
So, it’s pretty clear: high emotional intelligence really is a must for today’s leaders.
EQ enhances your ability to communicate clearly, build positive relationships, grow employee engagement and satisfaction, reduce conflict, take risks, and create a healthy and productive work culture.
Having emotionally intelligent leaders steering the ship also contributes to your organisation’s overall success. Who knew understanding your emotions could be so good for business?!