How Emotional Intelligence Makes Leaders More Impactful
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Over the past few years, emotional intelligence (EI) has become one of the most popular leadership theories in the workplace. Some even call it the new “core competency” for leaders.
Why is that?
Because research shows that people who have higher EI are better team members, they're more likely to motivate others, and they're more likely to lead by example. In other words, they're more effective leaders.
There are several different types of emotional intelligence you can develop. One of the most important is empathy — the ability to understand and relate to the emotions of other people.
Emotionally intelligent individuals recognize what makes someone else feel stressed or anxious, and they use this information to help them determine how best to respond. This helps them keep their relationships strong and reduce conflict.
Many employers now offer training in emotional intelligence as an organizational development (OD) program. These courses typically focus on either mindfulness (or self-awareness), understanding emotion, or both.
But is investing time in emotional intelligence worth it? For some experts, yes! That's why this article will discuss the benefits of developing your emotional intelligence.
Keep reading to learn about the top reasons why EQ is crucial to being a successful leader.
Why is emotional intelligence important?
Over the past few decades, researchers have increasingly focused on what makes someone become an effective leader. They look at how leadership skills develop over time, and what qualities are needed to succeed as a leader.
One of the most essential traits they find is emotional intelligence (or EI). This is described as your ability to recognize, understand, and manage your own emotions as well as those of others.
It goes beyond just knowing what emotion looks like in other people — you also need to be able to identify which emotions are appropriate for different situations and know what actions will help you regulate them.
With enough EI, it’s easy to see that there isn’t always a direct link between what you say and what happens. You may speak harshly with a coworker, but instead of feeling bad about yourself, you feel better because you didn’t burst into tears.
That doesn’t mean you're not hurt later, but you can put off some of that pain because you've got control over your own feelings.
Link between emotional intelligence and leadership
Over the past few decades, there have been many studies that link emotional quotient (EQ) with effective leadership. Some even suggest that having high EQ is essential to being an effective leader.
There are several reasons why this is thought of as important. One reason is because research has shown that great leaders are known for their ability to motivate others, maintain relationships, show empathy, manage emotions, set appropriate priorities, and use time effectively.
All of these things can be related to someone’s EQ.
Research also shows that people who have higher levels of EQ are more likely to succeed in life. This could include success at work, in friendships or romantic relationships, and other areas such as volunteering or community service.
Conversely, lower levels of EQ may make it harder to achieve your goals and avoid negative experiences. You may also suffer from job loss, relationship breakdown, and/or mental health issues.
Ways to improve your emotional intelligence
Developing your empathy is one of the most important things you can do as a person. Or maybe it’s all about developing your self-awareness? Either way, this is something that everyone needs to work on.
We are constantly exposed to other people's emotions, but we never really know what they're feeling until it comes up in conversation or they tell us.
That is why being able to read someone is so crucial – not just their looks, but also their tone of voice, how they interact with others, and if they seem happy, sad, angry, etc.
There are many ways to develop your EQ (or emotional quotient, as some call it). You can learn how to recognize and control your own emotions, be aware of the emotions of others, understand why people feel the way they do, and use those reasons to influence them.
Hold conversations more closely
As discussed earlier, emotional intelligence is like IQ – it helps you succeed in life. But what makes someone effective depends on who they are, where they work, and what they aim to achieve.
If we look at successful people across all fields, what unites them is not necessarily their raw talent or skill, but rather how well they relate to others.
These individuals are aware of other people’s emotions and learn from them. They recognize a colleague’s success and celebrate it with applause and talk about how they could also succeed.
They play an active part in encouraging colleagues and helping them feel good about themselves and the job they do. In fact, some studies suggest that being able to read and identify feelings plays a bigger role in career advancement than pure talent.
That’s why it’s important to develop your emotional intelligence — because leadership is about relationships. And if you can’t manage your own emotions, then no one will trust you enough to be open and honest with you.
Your colleagues will keep things secret that they should tell you, and those under you will never come to you for help when they need it.
Make eye contact
As we know, leadership is more than just being in control of others. A leader sets an example for other people to follow by what they do, how they act, and most importantly, what they say. They make an impression that people take note of.
One powerful way to inspire someone else is to make direct eye contact with them. When you look into their eyes, they are less likely to put up barriers and shields around themselves because you have shown interest in who they are. This creates a sense of trust which can facilitate collaboration.
When was your last time you made direct eye contact with someone? Probably never. But it’s important to remember this when leading or being led.
Make intentional effort to do so at least once a day – for yourself first! Then try extending it to those around you. It will not only help you connect but also influence others.
This article about emotional intelligence in leaders will give you some tips along these lines.
As mentioned earlier, there is no silver-bullet solution for emotional intelligence. But what you can do to improve your own EQ is consistently show how you feel and showcase those emotions in appropriate settings at appropriate times.
This is especially true as a leader who wants to keep people engaged and motivated. If someone does something that makes you angry or disappointed, don’t lash out — instead take time to reflect on why it was important and if there are ways to prevent such actions from happening again.
When someone has done something wrong, let them know through direct conversation or via email, memo, or text message. Don’t allow their mistakes to linger and hurt others unintentionally.
By having these conversations with consistency, you will help develop relationships that have efficiency and effectiveness. You will also learn when to hold your fire and maintain control over your emotions – an essential leadership quality.
As we have seen, emotional intelligence is an essential skill for leaders to hone. It can make a big difference in your effectiveness as a leader, and there are many ways you can develop it.
But before you get too excited about all of the things you could do if you were more emotionally intelligent, remember that the first step towards improving your EI is being able to recognize when you’re not feeling good about yourself or someone else.
This may be because something bad happened, someone criticized you, or you made a mistake. All of these things are totally normal and acceptable, but they can still hurt very much.
That's why the next thing to do is acknowledge how you felt and try to understand what might have caused those feelings. Then, decide whether the other person is right or wrong, and work on changing any behavior that cannot be changed.
If people can change their behavior, then you will also be able to eventually, so don't give up.
Being authentic is more than just telling people what they want to hear. It’s not saying things you don’t mean because people expect it of you.
It’s staying true to who you are inside, how you feel about things, and your expectations of other people.
This can be really hard when someone does or says something that makes you angry or disappointed.
You may not say anything for hours, even days, but once you do speak again, it will come out some time later.
Alternatively, your inner feelings may get suppressed and then come boiling up as soon as you're with certain people.