Emotional Intelligence: THE KEY TO EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP
Close your eyes. Now think of a person whom you consider a “perfect leader”. Take a second. Now think of the reason that you consider him/her a leader in your mind. Of the many qualities your “perfect leader” has, I am sure you can relate to the fact that he/she never lets temper get out of control, no matter what problems he’s facing. Or you might think of someone who has the complete trust of their staff, listens to his/her team, is easy to talk to, and always makes careful, informed decisions. Sound familiar? Well all these qualities are those of someone with a high level of “Emotional Intelligence”. Lets take a journey to find out why it is important for effective leaders to have this KEY quality of Emotional Intelligence.
The term itself, to some extent, might be self-explanatory but Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you. Having a high degree of EI allows one to know what they’re feeling, what their emotions mean, and the effect of these emotions on other people.
It is essential for leaders to have high levels of emotional intelligence, After all, you are more likely to succeed if you calmly assess the situation rather than shouting at your team when you are under stress. AS a leader, you need to stay in control and remain composed.
According to American psychologist Daniel Goleman, who helped in popularizing the concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI), we need to focus on 5 elements of EI:
1 Being Self-aware
2 Having Self-regulation
3 Motivating yourself
4 Empathetic in nature
5 Social skills
As leaders the more that you manage, each of these areas, the higher your emotional intelligence. Here we will make an attempt to look at each element in more detail and, along the way, look at how we can grow as leaders.
THE 5 AREAS OF EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE IN LEADERSHIP
- BEING SELF-AWARE
Being self-aware means you always know how you feel and also know how your emotions and actions can affect the people around you. Being self-aware when you’re in a leadership position also means having a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses. This gives way to one of the fundamental qualities of being a greater human being: behaving with humility.
So, lets look at what you can do to improve your level of self-awareness?
- Write a journal – Keeping a journal helps you improve your level of self-awareness. Spending a just few minutes each day writing down your thoughts can move you to a higher degree of self-awareness by making us know what are the things we experience on a daily basis in our lives.
- Take a pause – When experiencing anger or other strong emotions, give yourself a minute to examine why it is happening. No matter what the situation, you have the power to choose how you react to it.
- HAVING SELF-REGULATION
Self-regulated leaders rarely verbally attack others, compromise their values, make rushed or emotional decisions, or stereotype people. Having Self-regulation is about staying in control.
According to Goleman, this element of emotional intelligence also uncovers if a leader is flexible and committed to personal accountability.
If your tendency is to blame others when something goes wrong, you need to stop.
Some tips on improving self-regulation:
- Understand your values – We as Nepalese rarely have defined values. Having a clear idea of where you absolutely will not compromise will help you define yourself. It is crucial that you spend some time examining your “code of ethics.” When you know what’s most important to you, it is more likely that you won’t have to think twice when you face a moral or ethical decision and you’ll make the right choice.
- Think, “I am accountable”– If your tendency is to blame others when something goes wrong, you need to stop. You need to make commitments to admit your mistakes and face the consequences; whatever they maybe. This allows you to get a “good night’s sleep” and help you earn the respect of those around you.
- Keep Clam & Carry On – Here is one you need to do, NOW. Whenever you are in a challenging situation, have the awareness to know how you are acting. Some people relieve their stress by shouting at someone else. If you realize that you are that person, practice deep-breathing exercises to calm yourself. You can also write down all of the negative things you want to say on paper then rip it up and throw it away. I am sure you would agree that expressing the negative emotions on paper is better than speaking them aloud to your team. This also helps you challenge your reactions to ensure that they’re fair and just.
- MOTIVATING YOURSELF
Keeping yourself motivated allows you to work consistently toward your goals, and also have extremely high standards for the quality in your work.
Here is how can you improve your motivation:
- Re-examine your job and why you’re doing it – It’s easy for us to forget what we really love about our job or profession. We need to take some time to remember why we are doing the job we are doing. If you find that you’re unhappy in your role and are struggling to remember why you wanted it, you can help yourself by assessing it trying the “Five Why’s” technique. Asking yourself, “Why am I doing this job? Why this? Why that? Kind of questions (5 times) helps you to find the root of the problem. Starting at the root helps you look at your situation with a renewed perspective
- Know if you love to lead – It is very important that you know how motivated you are to lead. Some of us have the tendency to enjoy the role more than others. Various online assessment tools can help you know where you stand in terms of motivation to lead.
- Being hopeful and finding good – Optimism is a virtue in most motivated leaders. No matter what problems you face, having a positive outlook will be beneficial to you and your team as a whole. If you are able to find some good in all that is bad, it gives the situation a whole new meaning. Making every incident in your life a learning experience goes a long way in becoming a motivated and effective leader.
- EMPATHETIC IN NATURE
Empathy, not sympathy, is critical to managing a successful team or organization. Having empathy means the ability to put yourself in someone else’s situation. Giving constructive feedback, challenging team members who are acting unfairly and listening to those who tend to be unattended to helps develop the people on your team.
To earn the respect and loyalty of your team, you need to show them you care by being empathetic in nature.
Improving you empathy level:
- Put yourself in someone else’s “shoes” – One of the elementary mistakes we make is to support our own personal view point. It comes naturally since it is “our” idea to begin with. To be empathetic, we need to take the time to look at situations from other people’s perspectives too. Understanding where a person comes from (culturally, socially etc.) will give us an idea of their understanding and knowledge of matters being worked on as a team.
- Paying attention to non-verbal cues – I am sure you have crossed your arms or swung your legs or not made eye contact when you are listening to someone. This type of body language tells others how you respond to the situation or the particular piece of communication. The message you’re giving isn’t a positive one either. We, as leaders, must learn to read body language; and this can be a real asset for someone in a leadership role. You will not only be better able to determine how someone truly feels but also gives you the opportunity to respond appropriately.
- Connect with the feelings – In my experience, humans are creatures of emotion and not logic. You may have noticed the prominent sigh and disappointed tone of voice when you ask your assistant to work late – again. In these situations, as a leader, you need to respond by addressing his/her feelings. Simply by appreciating your employee’s willingness to work extra hours, and letting them know that you too are not very enthusiastic about working late, you create a
connection of feelings with him/ her. This helps in building good relationship amongst your peers and subordinates. Taking a step further, you can also figure a way of compensating (non-financial) the extra hours by giving a day off on another day.
Optimism is a virtue in most motivated leaders.
- SOCIAL SKILLS
Humans are social animals. It is almost impossible for us to live aloof. As leaders we need to have a certain level of social skills, which allows us to be better communicators. Having good social skills also allows you to manage change and resolve conflicts diplomatically.
Building your social skills requires you to:
- Learn to resolve conflict – To be a socially skilled leader you need to sharpen your conflict resolution skills. The art of handling conflict helps you maintain relationships and be more socially acceptable.
- Focus on improving your communication skills – You need to assess how well you communicate. Various online tools and questionnaires can help you do so. These will help you realize your current level of communication effectiveness and also provide you with tips on improving them.
- Be appreciative and praise others – You may have heard the saying: “criticize in private and praise in public”. This is true in every sense. You can inspire the loyalty of your team simply by saying “ Thank you” or “Great job” when it’s earned.
It is crucial that effective leaders have a good understanding of how their actions and emotions affect the people in their lives. When a leader can emotionally relate to and work with others, the chances of success increases significantly.
Take the time to work on all the points mentioned above. Developing yourself in these areas will not only help you excel in the future but you will be known as an effective leader as well.
Words: Avash Niroula