Emotional Intelligence: How Good Leaders Become Great

Most would agree that being a great leader is more than just having lots of charisma, commanding attention when you speak, and knowing how to motivate people away from their personal goals and towards larger ones.

It’s also about empathy — understanding what makes someone else feel happy or sad, and acting upon those insights.

And it’s not only important for leading others, but also oneself. After all, no one can lead anyone else if they aren’t in control of their own emotions.

But emotional intelligence (or EQ as some call it) isn’t something you are born with. You must develop yours over time.

In this article we will discuss five easy ways to improve your emotional intelligence. They don’t require much money or special equipment, and any one of them can be done daily.

Make decisions confidently

emotional intelligence how good leaders become great

As we mentioned before, being decisive is one of the most important leadership skills you can develop. Decisions are what sets leaders apart from everyone else, so it makes sense to strive to make as many decisions as you can with confidence.

Becoming more confident in your decision-making process will not only help you at work, but also outside of work. You will feel more comfortable making choices that affect yourself and others.

When you do not have full confidence in your choice, you will probably hesitate longer than necessary. This could cost you money or time, depending on how much power your choice has.

Understand your audience

emotional intelligence how good leaders become great

As mentioned earlier, being a great leader is more than just having a large amount of confidence in yourself or even knowing what you want and going after it with vigor. It’s about understanding who your colleagues are and how they feel about things so that you can influence them positively to help you achieve your goals.

As human beings we all have different personalities which affect how we perceive and interact with the people around us. This may be due to our personal experiences, feelings towards certain topics, or because of who we think others look up to.

It’s important to understand these differences if you want to keep succeeding as a leader.

Be realistic

emotional intelligence how good leaders become great

We’ve discussed before how important it is to be aware of your emotional strengths and weaknesses. Now, we will discuss why that is so crucial for leadership growth.

As leaders, our emotions play an integral part in inspiring people to work with us, helping them feel motivated and invested in the organization.

When someone does something well, you must give them a reward or they may lose motivation to do it again. If they see that you don’t appreciate what they did, then they may not put in as much effort next time.

On the other hand, if they see that you are overwhelmed by their accomplishment, then they may stop trying to help you achieve your goals because they can tell you have lost confidence in yourself.

Either way, senior level professionals cannot perform their jobs effectively when they are not able to motivate themselves or manage their own feelings.

So now that you know some reasons why being conscious of your emotions is important, let’s look at three ways to increase your emotional intelligence.

#3 – Develop relationships

This might sound strange but I want to talk about an aspect of emotional intelligence that few consider to be ‘true’ EI.

Some refer to it as “other-focused empathy” but I find this term misleading. It implies that having these skills means paying attention only to what others are feeling, which isn’t true at all.

Understand your emotions

One of the most important skills that great leaders have is understanding their own emotional tendencies and those of other people. We all have different levels of stress, anxiety, and fear.

Some of us are more demonstrative than others when we’re stressed out or angry, while others tend to keep things quiet.

There are also certain types of feelings that some people seem to run into very quickly, whereas others take longer to process.

For example, it may be difficult for someone who has never been given credit before to feel confident after getting fired, but there is a universal feeling among people who have lost their jobs — disappointment.

That sense of loss can linger for weeks, even months, and it’s completely natural. But for some, it turns into anger or frustration towards those who made them believe they could do their job better than they did themselves.

For years, these individuals held onto this hurt and resentment, keeping themselves from moving forward with their lives.

If you recognize such signs in yourself or others, try taking some time to work through your reactions. Give yourself permission to feel what you need to feel instead of acting on instinct.

By being aware of your mood swings, you will be able to function much better during times of discontent. – Julie Zeldes, The Power Of Your Own Internal Wisdom: A Guide For Living With Emotional Intelligence

Writing down how you feel can help you understand your emotions.

Help others be their best

emotional intelligence how good leaders become great

As a leader, your effectiveness is not limited to just you alone. You should always remember that you are responsible for helping other people reach their potential, and you must do this even when they are doing things that make you angry or frustrated.

This may sound very difficult at times, but it is important to understand this as a leader. Your colleagues will likely bring up challenges and issues that they feel are beyond their control, so how you respond to these matters really does matter.

If you can remain calm and focused, then this will help them see that you have mastered your own emotions and career skills. This will also give them confidence in you as a leader.

It is also worth noting that although leadership involves making decisions, being a good decision maker is only half of what makes an effective leader. The other part is communicating those decisions clearly to followers who rely on you for guidance and support.

Be humble

emotional intelligence how good leaders become great

As human beings, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Some people are more socially intelligent than others, while others are better at focusing in tasks for long periods of time. And some people seem to be quick to feel negative emotions, whereas other people can take longer to become emotionally involved.

There’s an important reason why you should work to improve your emotional intelligence. It will make you more productive, effective, and happy.

In his book The No-Distracting Life, Brendon Burchard points out that one of the most powerful reasons why we get distracted is because we worry about how we would respond if someone else got hurt due to our lack of focus.

He calls this “distress tolerance.” We unconsciously fear what might happen to us if something bad happens to somebody else. This could be because we’re overly focused on our own goals and aspirations or because we don’t like certain individuals and so we're afraid they won't like me or think well of me.

The truth is, though, none of these things matter very much. What matters is whether you'll help achieve the goal I've set for myself.

As hard as it may be to believe, what other people think of you isn’t a terribly significant part of your overall happiness. In fact, studies show that when we're too concerned with what other people think of us, we end up being unhappy.

Look for the best in others

emotional intelligence how good leaders become great

As a leader, your success will depend largely upon how well you use people to achieve your goals. The more effective you are at motivating and inspiring others to join you in achieving your goals, the higher you climb up the ladder of leadership.

As we know, motivation is key when it comes to employee productivity. If employees do not feel motivated about their job, then they will not give much effort towards meeting your expectations.

It’s like buying a car without test-driving it. You might get a good deal, but chances are you would be unhappy with the choice. Same goes for choosing who to include into your team.

A great leader looks for the qualities in individuals that motivate them, encourages them to pursue these qualities, and eventually recruits them onto his or her team.

Such leaders understand individual strengths and weaknesses, and are able to leverage this knowledge to gain the most out of each person.

Stay positive

emotional intelligence how good leaders become great

Negative thinking can be your downfall, so try to avoid such thoughts as much as possible. When you are having a bad day, take some time to assess what is causing this mood and work on changing it or avoiding it altogether.

Thinking about all of the reasons why you’re angry, hurt, frustrated or discouraged will only make matters worse.

Instead, think about how good you’ve been and how you could have better managed your emotions earlier. You’ll realize that you’re not as controlled in situations that happened days or weeks ago.

That’s normal, but don’t use that as an excuse for letting more negative feelings control you. By learning how to manage your emotional responses, you’ll find that they’re less powerful.

You’ll also learn how to deal with those experiences in a more effective way. In fact, most great people were not always at their best, but if you look back on their lives, you won’t see too many low points.

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