What is emotional intelligence and how can you leverage it as a leader?

There are a lot of skills and traits that make up a good leader. From strategic thinking to visionary execution, there is a lot to be said about the traditional business functions that add up to excellent leadership.

However, there is more to leadership excellence than technical abilities, great executives are in tune with their employees on a more personal and intuitive level. This is what we call emotional intelligence (EI).

What does emotional intelligence boil down to?

Emotional intelligence has been a hot topic in leadership discussions for a while now. At the forefront of this movement is Daniel Goleman – an author and psychologist now renowned for his work on EI and its links to leadership.

What does emotional intelligence consist of?What does emotional intelligence consist of?

On a broad scale, emotional intelligence is a person’s ability to read other people’s emotions and respond to them intuitively. In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Goleman asserts that this boils down to five distinct pieces:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy for others
  • Social skills.

While the technical skills associated with leadership are obviously important, EI is what ultimately makes for a powerful leader.

“Without [emotional intelligence], a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader,” explained Goleman.

There is more to leadership excellence than technical abilities.

How can you become more in tune with emotional intelligence as a leader?

The power of emotional intelligence in leadership isn’t all just theoretical talk. It has a proven impact. According to a study by the Carnegie Institute of Technology, 85 per cent of a leader’s financial success was linked to skills associated with emotional intelligence (such as communication and personality) whereas only 15 per cent of this success was tied to technical skills.

Luckily, crafting a leadership style which includes heavy influences from emotional intelligence can be done with some practice. Let’s take a look at some concrete ways you can strengthen your EI practices.

Be introspective

You can’t be in tune with other people’s emotions if you’re not first in tune with your own. One of the main components of EI, according to Goleman, is self-awareness. Take the time to understand your responses to different scenarios. How do you react to stressors? What kind of communication do you respond best to? These insights will not only help you grow as a leader but can allow you to better understand the ways in which your team reacts to you.

Practise active empathy

Fostering a deeper understanding of others is another major pillar of sound emotional intelligence. As a leader you need to take the time to see things through the lens of your employees. An angry coworker could be dismissed as irrational and unfit for your company culture. But what if, by understanding his or her anger, you could not only remedy the issue but cultivate a more engaged worker? Does the anger really stem from your employee being unhappy with their current position? If you can pinpoint the real source of the problem and address the issue appropriately, you will not only come to a resolution quicker your team member will appreciate your understanding.

Trying to understand your employee's emotions can help you become a better leader.Trying to understand your employee’s emotions can help you become a better leader.

Revise and refine

A person’s emotional intelligence is constantly evolving. Whether it is adapting to new employees and their preferences or learning new things about their individual responses – EI in leadership is something that needs to be actively and continuously worked on. Leaders should always be seeking out new training or practices to keep their skills on par.

Interested in learning more about how to hone your EI skills? ICML offers leadership courses that focus on improving your emotional intelligence. Reach out to one of our reps today to find out more!

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