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Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Andrew Langat
January 10, 2023
Two people talking about emotional intelligence in Leadership.
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“What really matters for success, character, happiness and life long achievements is a definite set of emotional skills – your EQ — not just purely cognitive abilities that are measured by conventional IQ tests.- Daniel Goleman.

If you carry out a random interview in the streets and ask the following questions:

What makes a great leader? What's one skill that defines a great leader? What would you do if you were to rise to a leadership position?

Typical responses might include: One who leads by example inspires others, has great technical skills, has confidence in making tough decisions, self-management, a combination of different DiSC styles, is approachable, has good communication skills, empathy, or is a great listener.

These are typically recommended leadership behaviors that anyone in a leadership role should aspire to have. That said, emotional intelligence ranks supreme as a core attribute of great leadership.

Why is this the case?

Of all the important leadership skills, lacking emotional intelligence competencies in leadership means poor relationship management and the absence of psychological safety important in, among other things, conflict resolution and encouraging people to deliver on set targets.

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What is Emotional Intelligence in Leadership?

Emotional intelligence in leadership is the ability to manage your emotions and that of your employees in a workplace. Researchers John Mayer and Peter Salovey first used the term in 1990, but it were brought to the mainstream by Dr. Daniel Goleman through his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

Emotional intelligence in leadership is one of the core aspects of the fundamentals of leadership that leaders need to learn. When a leader practices emotional intelligence, they:

  • Improve and strengthen relationships in their workplace
  • Influence colleagues and team members towards set goals
  • Manage stress and utilize their emotions to create positive outcomes.
  • Connect emotionally with team members, direct reports, etc.
  • Manage behavior that can negatively affect a team
  • Get more out of their employees
  • Adapt a leadership style to accommodate different personality traits.
  • Understand how their actions affect others.

Conversely, leaders who lack emotional intelligence can negatively impact a workplace environment due to their own behavior leading to lower morale and productivity that has a direct bearing on organizational goals.

Thus, leaders must learn or improve emotional intelligence to offer Authentic leadership.

Two people talking about emotional intelligence in Leadership.

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What are the Components of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership?

According to Dr. Daniel Coleman, the father of emotional intelligence, there are four components of emotional intelligence in leadership. These include self-awareness, self-regulation, self-management, and relationship management.

1. Self Awareness

Self-awareness is the ability to recognize and understand one's emotions, thoughts, and behaviors and how they affect others. Most effective leaders have a high degree of self-awareness.

Self-aware leaders can recognize their strengths and limitations and how their emotions and behaviors impact others. This way, they can take a step back and reflect on their actions and decisions and how it impacts others.

As a leader, to enhance your self-awareness and improve emotional intelligence, do the following:

  • Practice mindfulness. This refers to paying attention to the present moment on how your words, actions, and responsibilities affect others. Some of the key attributes of mindfulness include non-judging, patience, a beginner's mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance, and letting go.
  • Seek help from a leadership coach. Through programs such as Executive coaching for leadership development, leaders will learn self-awareness and how to utilize it in their leadership position.
  • Ask for specific feedback: Effective leaders ask for specific feedback - both good and bad. Specific Feedback will enable you to ask the following questions: Where can I improve? Where do I need more training?

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Self Regulation

Self-regulation is the management and control of one's emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. For leaders, it enables them to remain calm and level-headed in times of stress or conflict and make well-informed decisions.

Some of the tips for enhancing self-regulation include:

  • Practice self-awareness. When you become more self-aware, you will practice more self-regulation and know how to self-monitor, self-talk, self-motivation, and self-reinforcement toward the desired behavior.
  • Plan for challenging situations. Every workplace undergoes a difficult patch, such as layoffs. As a leader, planning for such eventually - such as how to deliver the bad news - in advance enables you to self-regulate and exercise more empathy.
  • Learn your triggers: Learning about your triggers will enable you to avoid situations that make you lose control. For example, if Gossip triggers you, make it known that you don't entertain such. One way to know and track your triggers is by keeping a journal.

Relationship Management

One of the most important leadership skills is relationship management. Leaders who get this critical skill are great at resolving conflicts, managing change, and excelling at emotional intelligence.

Relationship management is crucial because the more you are connected to others - direct reports, customers, etc. -the easier it is to understand and avoid potentially damaging relations.

To enhance relationship management, do the following:

  • Practice effective communication: Effective communication enables you to put your ideas assertively and clearly. It enables others to know what is expected of them and your role. Some ways of practicing effective communication include: using clear language, appropriate body language, and creating room for feedback.
  • Understand yourself: Take time and understand self-awareness. Further, understand the difference between self-awareness and public awareness and how each can affect your relationship with others.
  • Be open to Feedback. Emotional intelligence develops when one is open to feedback. Feedback acts as a mirror through with we can accurately perceive who we are, not what we think. When we embrace positive and constructive feedback, others get more connected to us, leading to a solid understanding.

Social Awareness

Social awareness is the ability to take others' perspectives and empathize with them, including those from diverse cultures and backgrounds.

Leaders who practice social awareness practice empathy, as it leads to stronger connections, better conflict management, increased positivity, and lower discrimination.

Some of the ways of increasing social awareness include:

  • Recognizing strengths in others through interviews or through assessment that reveals individual strengths.
  • Use the right body language, such as facial expressions, tone, and mannerisms.
  • Learn to listen actively throughout a conversation
  • Make it a habit to repeat what was said. This gives room for clarification and a better understanding.
  • Fully immerse yourself in a conversation. Avoid habits such as scrolling your phone that may make you miss visual clues

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How Can Leaders use Emotional Intelligence?

Leaders can use emotional intelligence in the following ways:

1. Leading Organizations.

Emotional intelligence makes it easier for leaders to have influence in leadership. This leadership skill is essential since running a team, or an organization can be challenging, often involving managing others' emotions. By mastering emotional intelligence, a leader can excercise good leadership and build meaningful relationships with all stakeholders.

2. Leading Yourself.

Through emotional intelligence, one can assess their behavior, improve social and communication skills, learn to manage emotions, and learn how to manage weaknesses.

Learning how to develop your emotional intelligence can help you cut out some of your weaknesses. As a leader, it means constantly challenging yourself, navigating challenges, and picking yourself up when things go wrong. Self-control, good body language, and staying calm are vital to improving your emotional intelligence.

3. Leading Others.

Good leaders understand the importance of having a good team around them; for them to perform, they need to unlock their potential. This means identifying what matters to people, what motivates them and how this motivation relates to the organization's overall performance.

Job satisfaction is essential nowadays, and leaders understand how to ensure that the different personalities in a team work together without losing motivation or morale. As a leader, you need social skills to interact with all the interactions.

Leaders should be willing to listen, respect the expertise of others, and change their minds if appropriate. You must demonstrate empathy to undertake the most challenging workplace conservation with sensitivity and tact.

An emotionally intelligent leader will work well with others and attract personnel with strong technical skills to help an organization achieve its goals.

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Tips for Leading With Emotional Intelligence.

To lead with emotional intelligence, do the following:

1. Understand Others More than Yourself.

Leading with emotional intelligence requires leaders to harness their employees' diverse experiences and consider people's different lived experiences to help their teams achieve their full potential.

Your ability to understand where your employees are coming from, including their social identity and how their experiences may have informed their perspectives, demonstrates a willingness to see the world from other people's perspectives rather than your own.

Even though you might have high emotional intelligence and leadership effectiveness, getting to know every employee is difficult. It's challenging to see the world as others see it and accept various perspectives in a non-judgmental way.

Building those skills requires understanding how identity aspects can affect the way to lead and a willingness to learn and recognize your emotional weaknesses. Effective leadership is constrained or amplified based on how well leaders understand themselves, their awareness of how others view them, and how they can navigate the resulting interactions.

Self-awareness can help you improve your leadership effectiveness and emotional intelligence.

2. Practice Listening Skills

A better leader starts with solid listening skills and working to see other people's perspectives. An open attitude will help create an open space for sharing ideas and a safe psychological workplace.

Work on understanding other people's feelings and emotions. As you become open to suggestions, please pay close attention to their values and emotions. Listening is a great leadership skill, and for your team to perform, you should be willing to listen without giving out judgment.

3. Be Motivational.

A leader should know how to keep their team productive and engaged. It would help if you found out what motivates your team, encouraged people involved to be more open, and in the meantime, listened to their responses.

Once you understand what motivates your team, you can boost motivation and employee engagement, increase job satisfaction, and improve retention.

4. Connect with Employees at a Personal Level

When a leader goes out of their way to help out members of their team and recognize their efforts in the workplace, they practice emotional intelligence. Many leaders don't always do this as they prefer not to mix their own emotions with team members.

However, good leaders display acts of kindness in the workplace and add a more personalized touch, making them better performers and working with diverse individuals.

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What are the Pillars of Emotional Intelligence?

According to Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence in leadership has some key pillars. They include:

1. Self-regulation/Self-management.

Self-management or self-regulation is the ability to control and manage your own emotions. Leaders must stay calm, control their emotions and maintain a positive outlook no matter the circumstance.

This virtue is crucial in managing stressful situations, as leaders must be calm and control their emotions when responding to adversities.

2. Social awareness.

Social awareness means your ability to empathize with others' emotions. You need to recognize and understand your employee's feelings to have good communication skills.

Empathetic leaders support their employees' professional and personal growth and can maintain positive workplace morale effectively.

3. Self-awareness.

Self-awareness is important for leaders; to get more out of your team, you need to be the best version of yourself.

Self-awareness means understanding how you feel and how it can affect others in your workplace. Ensure that you are aware of your emotions, weaknesses, and strengths.

4. Self-motivation.

Leaders should always work to improve their professional and personal goals, as well as organizational goals. The ability to self-motivate is an important skill set for leaders to possess.

Successful leaders should be able to maintain a high level of productivity and efficiency and should effectively motivate their employees.

5. Social skills.

To be a successful leader, you need social skills.   Social skills include your ability to communicate, collaborate, inspire, influence effectively, and coach others. It also refers to your ability to resolve conflicts and manage difficult situations successfully

Leaders who have well-developed social skills can maintain positive workplace relationships.

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Why is Emotional intelligence in leadership important?

Emotional intelligence is important for many reasons. Emotionally intelligent leaders can develop and maintain an efficient, productive, and positive workplace while constantly motivating their employees to perform their best.

Leaders with this important skill can create a positive work environment in which employees feel comfortable taking risks and sharing their ideas. They can make difficult decisions, resolve conflict effectively, and adapt to changing business goals and circumstances.

A lack of emotional intelligence inhibits a leader’s ability to collaborate effectively and communicate with others. When leaders cannot manage their emotions, employees may be less eager to share their ideas and less likely to reach their full potential.

Emotional intelligence in leadership is essential as it helps leaders tackle situations like Change and uncertainty, interactions with colleagues, achievements and failures, efforts and burnouts, and conflicts and relationships.

Inspiring, isn’t it ? Want to learn more about connecting self-awareness to professional development? Get in touch today.

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Looking at Mastering Your Emotional Intelligence?

For effective leadership and management, one needs to master emotional intelligence. This complements the technical skills needed for a given leadership role. At Highrise, we shall help you improve on this important skill critical for success.

Reach us today for a free consultation.

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Andrew Langat
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Andrew Langat is an experienced content specialist in Leadership, Productivity, Education, Fintech, and Research. He is an avid reader and loves swimming as a hobby. He believes that quality content should be actionable and helpful.