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Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Emotional Intelligence, also known as EI or EQ (emotional quotient), is based on the idea that if people are better able to understand their own emotions and those of the people they work with, they are likely to be able to perform better. But what does it mean for leaders? How can you use it to enhance your leadership skills?

Why does a Leader need Emotional Intelligence?

A leader with high Emotional Intelligence (EQ) will have the trust of all those in their team and will probably be known for making good decisions, considering all the options. They are unlikely to get rattled or lose their temper easily, whatever is happening in the workplace.

The five domains of Emotional Intelligence are:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management
  3. Self-motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Managing relationships

Self-awareness

Self-awareness is about understanding what motivates us and what our achievements are. It is also about awareness of what we believe that might limit us and what we can do about those limitations.

As a leader, being self-aware means behaving with humility, understanding that we are all just people, and we will all make mistakes at times.

You can improve your self-awareness by looking at the following steps:

Accept your emotions
How you feel is hard to change, and maybe you don’t have to? Telling yourself you ‘shouldn’t’ feel a certain way doesn’t help, as you feel how you feel. If you can accept your feelings initially, then you can work on how to change them.

Appreciate your strengths and weaknesses
We all have weaknesses, and being aware of them is the first step to managing them. Knowing where your skills lie and where your weaknesses are, can help you develop a team that has a variety of strengths.

Reflect on your emotions
Give yourself time to reflect on your emotions, and the interactions you have had with others in the day. Think about what you could have done differently.

Self-management

As adults, the decisions we make are often value-based, and our values differ from person to person.  If our decisions are then challenged, then it feels like our values are being challenged, and this feels threatening. This can mean that our emotions come into play, which in turn may lead to irrational behaviour, particularly to those that may not understand our values.

As a leader, if you can practice self-management, then you are able to keep your emotions under control and remain focused on the issue at hand.

To improve your self-management, you can try the following steps:

Understand your own values
Until you know and understand your own values, you may struggle to self-manage. Do you know what is important to you, where you have strong feelings that may impact on your decision making?

Examine your own actions – who is to blame?
Do you always find someone else to blame when something goes wrong? Accepting and admitting your mistakes and working on fixing them, is an excellent quality in a leader and will inspire others in your team to do the same.

Be positive
If negative thoughts come to mind, try to get rid of them and remain positive. Writing them down can be a good method of getting them out of your head, but not damaging your relationship with others!

Self-motivation

As a self-motivated leader, you will have clear goals that you are working consistently towards, and you will set yourself and your team, high standards. You are less likely to be discouraged by setbacks but remain positive and optimistic.

To improve your motivation, look at the following areas:

Remember why you love your job
Hopefully, there are things you love about your job, but it can be easy to forget this in times of stress. Review your role and ensure you are happy with what you are doing.

Be optimistic
Whatever problems you are facing as a leader, try to find something good about the situation. It may just be that it is giving the team a chance to pull together and tackle the issue together, or a lesson learned, but there is generally something!

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to identify with and understand someone else’s situation, feelings, and motives and is an important skill for leaders.

To improve your empathy:

Put yourself in their position
You may feel you already do this, but sometimes we do it with our own values and emotions still in place. To be truly empathic, you need to consider what might be important to the other person and where their point of view may have come from – why they think how they do.

Listen positively
Don’t just listen to what you want to hear, or wait for the pause to put your point of view across. Focus on their words, what they are saying and how they are saying it. Try to paraphrase back to them what they are saying to ensure you understand it fully.

Look at body language
Tune into your own body language, and their’s. Make sure you are not giving the impression of negativity (crossed arms or legs) or showing inattentiveness (fidgeting, looking away). Look at how they are sitting or using their body to help you assess their true feelings about the situation under discussion.

Managing relationships

The final element is really bringing together all the other four elements. To be an effective leader you need to be able to manage your relationships well and be a great communicator.

To improve your relationship skills consider the following:

Build rapport with people
This is a key skill and brings together both body language and communication skills. Building rapport is about being genuine, showing interest in the other person and being open and friendly.

Understand your goal for each interaction
Consider what you are looking for from each interaction with your team. Are you just imparting information or do you need feedback and suggestions? Are you looking for solutions or just reprimanding someone? Once you are aware, you can be clearer in your communication.

Go for win-win
Ultimately you are looking for a solution where both sides walk away from your discussion happy with the outcome. This requires letting go of the win-lose mentality, which can be difficult and require practice.

Conclusion

Effective leaders will have a good understanding of their own emotions, and the impact they might have on the people in their team. The skills discussed in this post will require practice but will reap great rewards!

 

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