Emotional intelligence: A key component of effective leadership

Emotional intelligence: A key component of effective leadership

Fifty years ago, you would never have heard the word "emotions" mentioned in the workplace. Now, emotional intelligence (EI) has become everyone's favourite buzzword. But there's actually pretty significant substance behind this buzzword. Get this: 

In 2020, the World Economic Forum asked Australian businesses which skills were considered high-demand in their organisation. Guess where EI sat on the popularity scale?

No really, have a think about it for a minute. I'll wait.

It came in at sixth place, out of 15. EI is expected to be in higher demand across Australian companies than complex problem-solving and showing initiative by 2025. If you're developing leaders (or yourself) in the office, EI is probably the first thing you want to dive into.

Core components of EI

Emotional intelligence is a soft skill that measures individuals' ability to identify and respond to emotions in themselves and those around them. Here are a few building blocks of EI:

  • Self-awareness refers to readily identifying the emotions and behaviours you experience.
  • Motivation is about determining what triggers the negative, and what drives positive emotions and behaviours.
  • Self-regulation means responding to your thoughts and feelings by identifying your needs during heightened moments.
  • Empathy is recognising other people's experiences are not so different from yours, and offering them the same level of compassion as you do to yourself.

While in theory it looks basic, developing strong EI takes some time and practice.

Developing EI skills

Buddhism and EI both follow the theory that when you know yourself, you can know others. One of the best ways to develop EI skills is to study yourself through mindfulness techniques like meditation or reflective journaling.

You could also try paying attention to your body language, such as eye contact, breath regularity, tension and physical gestures. These offer insights into your body's subtle responses to stimulation. Next, apply your insights to the world around you.

What works well for one may not do justice for another. I've found that reflecting through self-questioning helps me to get in touch with core motivations.

Impact of EI on leadership

A team of researchers found that EI statistically increases team productivity. Why?

Being an emotionally intelligent leader makes people feel seen and heard, inspiring a more collaborative approach in both directions. This means you can not only solve problems faster, but you can strengthen your workplace relationships while you're at it.

Take decision-making, for example. Decisions that consider the way impacted individuals feel — as well as company goals — can gain greater support and cooperation. Factoring others' thoughts and feelings into conflict resolution leads to more palatable and achievable solutions for everyone.

Improving your EI awareness builds a strong foundation for a cohesive, collaborative and productive team to run on. So, how can you integrate EI into your work environment?

Applying EI in the workplace

As you build self-awareness, try connecting with other leaders and team members through shared interests and empathy. When you search for shared experiences, you'll often find they're right in front of you.

Develop your communication skills by selecting words wisely and practising active listening. I've seen teams start incorporating similar attributes into their approach once they've seen leaders modelling EI consistently.

Enhance EI skills with ICML

EI is more than just a strategy to foster a more harmonious and productive workplace — it's a life skill that'll serve you outside the office too. And it's in increasingly high demand. For a comprehensive understanding of emotional intelligence, consider our Emotional Intelligence course and see how your team — and leaders — grow.

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