The value of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

By Dr Kellen Kiambati Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence know what they are feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people. For leaders, having emotional intelligence is essential for success. After all, who is more likely to succeed – a leader who shouts at his team when he is under stress, or a leader who stay in control, and calmly assesses the situation? According to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist who helped to popularize EI, there are five main elements of emotional intelligence: Self-awareness. Self-regulation. Motivation. Empathy. Social skills. 1. Self-awareness If you are self-aware, you always know how you feel, and you know how your emotions and your actions can affect the people around you. Being self-aware when you are in a leadership position also means having a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses, and it means behaving with humility . So, what can you do to improve your self-awareness? Keep a journal – Journals help you improve your self-awareness. If you spend just a few minutes each day writing down your thoughts, this can move you to a higher degree of self-awareness. Slow down – When you experience anger or other strong emotions, slow down to examine why. Remember, no matter what the situation, you can always choose how you react to it. 2. Self-regulation Leaders who regulate themselves effectively rarely verbally attack others, make rushed or emotional decisions, stereotype people, or compromise their values. Self-regulation is all about staying in control. So, how can you improve your ability to self-regulate? Know your values – Do you have a clear idea of where you absolutely will not compromise? Do you know what values are most important to you? Spend some time examining your “code of ethics.” If you know what is most important to you, then you probably will not have to think twice when you face a moral or ethical decision – you will make the right choice. Hold yourself accountable – If you tend to blame others when something goes wrong, stop. Make a commitment to admit to your mistakes and to face the consequences, whatever they are. You will probably sleep better at night, and you will quickly earn the respect of those around you. Practice being calm – The next time you are in a challenging situation, be very aware of how you act. Do you relieve your stress by shouting at someone else? Practice deep-breathing exercises to calm yourself. Also, try to write down all of the negative things you want to say, and then rip it up and throw it away. Expressing these emotions on paper (and not showing them to anyone!) is better than speaking them aloud to your team. What’s more, this helps you challenge your reactions to ensure that they’re fair! 3. Motivation Self-motivated leaders work consistently toward their goals, and they have extremely high standards for the quality of their work. How can you improve your motivation? Re-examine why you are doing your job – It is easy to forget what you really love about your career. So, take some time to remember why you wanted this job. And make sure that your goal statements are fresh and energizing. For more on this, see our article on Goal Setting . Know where you stand – Determine how motivated you are to lead. If your level of motivation is low you then first work on increasing it. Be hopeful and find something good – Motivated leaders are usually optimistic, no matter what problems they face. Adopting this mindset might take practice, but it is well worth the effort. Every time you face a challenge, or even a failure, try to find at least one good thing about the situation. It might be something small, like a new contact, or something with long-term effects, like an important lesson learned. But there’s almost always something positive, if you look for it. 4. Empathy For leaders, having empathy is critical to managing a successful team or organization. Leaders with empathy have the ability to put themselves in someone else’s situation. They help develop the people on their team, challenge others who are acting unfairly, give constructive feedback, and listen to those who need it. If you want to earn the respect and loyalty of your team, then show them you care by being empathic. How can you improve your empathy? Put yourself in someone else’s position – It is easy to support your own point of view. After all, it is yours. But take the time to look at situations from other people’s perspectives. Pay attention to body language – Perhaps when you listen to someone, you cross your arms, move your feet back and forth, or bite your lip. This body language tells others how you really feel about a situation, and the message you are giving is not positive.  Learning to read body language can be a real asset in a leadership role, because you will be better able to determine how someone truly feels. This gives you the opportunity to respond appropriately. Respond to feelings – for example if you ask your assistant or colleague to work late time and again they may agree but you can hear the disappointment in their voices. So, respond by addressing their feelings. Tell them you appreciate how willing they are to work extra hours, and that you are just as frustrated about working late. If possible, figure out a way for future late nights to be less of an issue (for example, give them off duty). 5. Social skills Leaders who do well in the social skills element of emotional intelligence are great communicators. They are just as open to hearing bad news as good news, and they are expert at getting their team to support them and be excited about a new mission or project. Leaders who have good social skills are also good at managing change and resolving conflicts diplomatically. They’re rarely satisfied with leaving things as they are, but they do not sit back and make everyone else do the work: They set an example with their own behavior. So, how can you build social skills? Learn conflict resolution – Leaders must know how to resolve conflicts between their team members, customers, or vendors. Learning conflict resolution skills is vital if you want to succeed. Improve your communication skills – How well do you communicate? Effective communication is very key and with clarity, consistency and timeliness Learn how to praise others – As a leader; you can inspire the loyalty of your team simply by giving praise when it’s earned. Learning how to praise others is a fine art, but well worth the effort.

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