Emotional Intelligence has gained immense traction over the past few years. Along with being business-savvy, experienced, technically advanced, analytics-driven, and visionary, leaders today have to display high emotional intelligence to be called successful leaders.
While these skills, along with technical dexterity, allow people to climb into management roles, it is emotional intelligence that guarantees the next promotion, leadership success, and leadership relevance.
Emotional intelligence accounts for 90% of what sets apart high performers from their peers who have similar technical knowledge and skills.
Given the constant pace of disruption in the enterprise landscape, emotional intelligence is emerging as the new paradigm for leaders to measure and monitor their own and their team’s performance and helps drive growth and innovation.
It will not be wrong to say that emotional intelligence makes a leader great.
But what is emotional intelligence?
Decoding Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is not an ambiguous term. It is the ability to recognize, understand and manage one’s emotions and recognize, value, and influence the opinion of those around. People with high emotional intelligence can recognize and understand the emotions of those around them and positively influence their colleagues and team members.
Emotional Intelligence or EQ, as it is more popularly known, goes beyond the administrative nuts and bolts of being a great leader. It gives leaders the knowledge of how to create positive experiences both in personal and professional spaces.
Emotionally intelligent leaders are a radical departure from the traditionally authoritative leadership style that says, “I say ‘jump,’ you say, ‘how high?’” They enable their teams to help them stay productive and put employee needs first.
The four pillars of emotional intelligence are:
Leaders need to make sound decisions. This requires clarity of thought and confidence in one’s decision-making capabilities. This stems from deep inner awareness of how feelings influence their judgment, attitudes, etc.
Self-awareness is the ability to understand one’s strengths and weaknesses with objectivity while recognizing the impact of individual emotions and their effect on team performance.
Research, however, shows that while 95% of people think they’re self-aware, only 10 to 15% actually are. Leaders who are not self-aware cut down the chances of team success to half. It increases stress, decreases motivation, and increases attrition.
Remember that boss who everyone was afraid of because they would fly off the handle when things didn’t go their way? As the workplace demographic changes, how leaders engage must evolve as well. Self-regulation is a critical trait that leaders must display to be respected and revered in the workplace today.
Self-regulation is the capacity of a leader to manage their emotions during chaotic, unpleasant, adverse, stressful, or disruptive situations. Leaders who cannot self-regulate are usually reactive, and not responsive, to stressful situations and have a hard time keeping their responses in check.
Conflicts and chaos in today’s workplace are inevitable. Global teams, hybrid work, and constant disruption create the perfect storm every single time. Leaders can either blow up and make the situation worse or acknowledge the situation and mend the problem.
Being in tune with emotional intelligence allows leaders to move from being reactive to responsive. It helps them maintain a positive outlook in distress and allows them to respond calmly in the face of adversity.
Leaders not only need to be aware of their feelings and emotions, but they also need the critical ability to read a room. Social awareness is the ability to empathize with others and understand their emotions and dynamics within the organization.
Socially aware leaders demonstrate high levels of empathy. Empathy is the ability to accurately gauge the emotions of others and think from their shoes to understand their feelings and perspectives. This allows leaders to communicate more effectively with the workforce, build trust, and generate a feeling of belonging more effortlessly.
Emotional intelligence helps leaders develop and maintain relationships both outside and inside their positions. Relationship management in leadership roles is the ability of a leader to drive influence, coach for success, and resolve conflict. Relationship management maturity allows leaders to use their awareness of their and others’ emotions to manage interactions successfully.
The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership
Emotional intelligence in leadership allows leaders to create a psychologically safe workplace where people can thrive and grow.
With emotional intelligence, leaders
- Enable employees to take risks and share ideas more comfortably as there is no fear of failure or judgment around it.
- Foster better team engagement and help create a feeling of belonging amongst team members since everyone feels seen and heard.
- Acknowledge team dynamics and give everyone their voice.
- Nurture their employees and not subject them to unfiltered and negative emotions.
- Build a high-performance environment by creating a culture of high trust, non-judgment, and mutual respect.
- Create an environment where employees are more invested and productive and positively impact the bottom line.
- Coach their teams better. Channel employee challenges with greater confidence and surety because they are more self-aware and can regulate their emotions better.
- Inspire action amongst team members and make them want to bring in their best selves to work. Such teams are highly engaged, solution and growth-driven with very high ownership levels towards work.
Empathy helps leaders remain non-judgmental and objective. It allows them to be better listeners, and solution-driven and helps them build a co-creative relationship with their team members that advances change and promotes forward movement.
Emotional intelligence in leaders can have ripple effects across the entire organization. Employees thrive when they work under leaders who are kind, respectful, confident, and yet, humble, and show authentic interest in delivering enablement.
While being emotionally intelligent may not come naturally to everyone, it is a quality that can be developed over time. However, day-long training programs cannot help leaders develop their emotional intelligence. Developing this critical skill takes coaching to drive the behavior change needed to build self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, and relationship management skills. Leaders must also become more aware of conscious and unconscious biases at play and be willing to unlearn certain traits that might be watering down their EQ.
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