How To Improve Emotional Intelligence In Leadership

Developing your emotional intelligence (EI) is an integral part of being a leader. You cannot lead without it, nor can you be successful anywhere outside the house of emotions that you understand well.

Research has proven that people who are good leaders typically show high levels of empathy, compassion, and motivation. While these are admirable qualities, there’s another element to leadership that has been identified as just as important – understanding and management of others' emotions.

This element of EI is referred to as intrapersonal or within-group EI. It focuses on identifying what emotions other people feel and how those feelings influence their behavior towards you.

It also involves taking care of yourself emotionally by acknowledging and labeling your own thoughts, feelings, and impulses. This helps you identify potential problem areas so you can address them before they become larger issues.

Intentionally developing your interpersonal skills — including your ability to read and manage emotion -- will make a big difference in the way you perform your job, and in the success of your career.

Have patience

how to improve emotional intelligence in leadership

A lot of people have a hard time being patient with others. They feel compelled to make their opinion known immediately, which can hurt relationships and lower productivity.

If you need to say something to someone, there will probably be a good amount of silence before you speak. That is how most conversations start, and that is how normal conversations are done.

It takes an average of eight minutes for someone else to respond after you talk about them. So, wait that long! If you must say something then do so with no delay.

However, if you have noticed bad behavior that needs correcting, go ahead and say what you want to say now. Just remember, be gentle and understanding and try not to put too much pressure on the person.

Give them some space and they might come back around and listen to your words.

Make eye contact

how to improve emotional intelligence in leadership

Making direct, meaningful connections with others is a powerful way to improve your emotional intelligence. When you look people in the eyes, you show them that you care about what they have to say. It also shows them that you are interested in talking to them, which makes them more likely to talk to you as well!

When someone glances away or looks down while speaking to you, it can make you feel like there’s not much importance to their words. They may even start avoiding you or ignoring you completely because they don’t think you pay attention to what they say. This could hurt your professional relationships — and your feelings.

Making direct, meaningful connections with other people is an important part of leadership. And if you want to be a better leader, you need to work on your own emotional intelligence.

But aside from being conscious of how you feel about things, you should also be aware of how others feel about you. You wouldn’t put yourself through all of this effort helping other people grow unless you really cared about them.

So try making direct eye contact when possible. Not only will it inspire confidence, it'll boost your emotional intelligence quotient.

Be realistic

how to improve emotional intelligence in leadership

A lot of theories about emotional intelligence focus too much on having strong emotions, which is good to know how to manage your feelings, but what if you’re not able to feel them?

Some people are just built differently than others. This doesn’t make them bad people or worthless, it means they’re working on themselves instead of trying to be someone else.

Don’t compare yourself to other people when it comes to emotional intelligence. You can only control you own mental processes so don’t worry about what others may or may not have.

Also remember that everyone has their days where they’re less emotionally intelligent than they usually are. It’s nothing to be ashamed of!

Take a look at how you handle your emotions right now and see whether there are ways to improve that.

Share your feelings

how to improve emotional intelligence in leadership

As mentioned earlier, one of the important things that can help you develop your emotional intelligence is understanding what makes other people feel good or bad.

This is called perceiving social cues. It sounds simple enough, but it’s a powerful tool for leadership.

By picking up on how others are feeling, you can figure out if they seem happy about something, if they look nervous or stressed, or if they appear confident.

You get a lot of information just by watching someone perform their job for a few minutes!

If anyone has ever seen a person do a great talk or speech, they will probably have heard them say something like “That was awesome!” Or maybe they noticed someone looking very relaxed after a certain event and so they assumed that person had enjoyed the event.

The way we perceive and interpret emotions is influenced by our own personal experiences, culture, media, etc. So unless you are an expert in this field, there is no easy fix. But you can work on it and it is definitely worth investing time into.

Start by being aware of your own emotions. Then learn how to recognize those of others. Only then can you apply your knowledge to improve your EQ.

Be honest with your peers

As mentioned earlier, one of the major factors that play into emotional intelligence is being able to relate to others. This can be difficult when people around you are not making sense or seem very different from you.

The truth is, most people are not like you at all. We have our own internal experiences, beliefs, and thoughts that we carry with us, and they don’t always match up with other people’s.

This could be because there’s a difference in what things matter to you and why, or if someone else has more clout in the organization than you do.

It might also be due to differences in how you process information and whether such processes are similar to those of other people.

In any case, it can be hard to understand what people are feeling unless you're like them.

Listen to others closely

how to improve emotional intelligence in leadership

As a leader, your success will depend heavily on how well you listen to people. You must be aware of what other individuals are saying about you and your leadership style, as well as how they feel about projects and tasks that you assign them.

It’s easy to get distracted by the demands coming your way and forget that not everyone is motivated by praise and rewards.

By paying more attention to what others need from you and giving appropriate feedback, you can improve your emotional intelligence (EI) as a leader.

You’ll also learn whether or not someone else is a good fit for the job position you have available to you. If they don’t seem committed to the project or the company, then chances are they won’t do a great job completing their assigned task.

On the other hand, if they seem enthusiastic about their work and willing to put effort into it, then they’re likely to succeed. This would be an important factor when looking for new employment or advancing within the organization.

Don’t be egotistical

how to improve emotional intelligence in leadership

One of the biggest reasons why people don’t perceive emotional intelligence as an important leadership quality is because some leaders are very conscious of their own emotions.

Studies show that 95% of all human communication is non-verbal. This means that looking at someone’s face, how they dress, what kind of tone of voice they use, etc., can tell you a lot about them and how they are feeling.

If your colleagues, superiors or clients notice you avoiding eye contact, it may hurt your interpersonal skills but will not do anything to improve your EQ. On the contrary, it could indicate that you have sensed something was wrong and were trying to look away so that you didn’t get involved.

Avoiding eye contact shows a lack of respect for others. It makes them feel excluded and uncomfortable. And when no one feels comfortable around you, cooperation becomes difficult if not impossible.

As leader, showing respect for those who work with you and helping to create an environment where everyone feels accepted and able to express themselves freely is an integral part of being a successful leader.

Be humble

how to improve emotional intelligence in leadership

A leader who is not confident in his or her own abilities is not an effective leader. As such, they will probably look for other leaders that are more powerful than them so that they feel better about themselves.

This can be counterproductive as you may need those weaker leaders to help you achieve your goals. You must believe in yourself and have confidence in your leadership skills before people will trust you and work with you.

Furthermore, it can be difficult to develop leadership qualities if you don’t know what these are. Having low self-confidence can sometimes prevent you from seeking out new experiences or taking risks.

So, being aware of your weaknesses is important but also realizing that there is no one way to be a great leader. There are many different styles of leadership and ways to motivate others that work for some people but not for others.

There is no ‘perfect’ style of leadership, only ones that work well for you.

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