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The Power of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

The Power of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership
The Power of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

The Power of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

You’re managing several projects at once. You’re understaffed, and one of the members of your team is not pulling their weight. In the middle of an already hectic day, another team member comes to you with a complaint that feels trivial. How do you respond?

Stressful situations like the one just described can put our emotional intelligence to the test. Emotional intelligence (also called E.Q.), in essence, is a person’s ability to recognize and control their own emotions as well as recognize and work with the emotions of others constructively.

E.Q. is not as simple as a switch that is either on or off; it exists on a spectrum. Some aspects of this intelligence may come naturally to us, while other facets may pose more of a challenge. Leaders, though, have a particular need to develop and maintain a high level of emotional intelligence. Why?

Emotional Intelligence and Trust

At its most fundamental level, emotional intelligence begins with self-awareness and self-control. These two qualities are vital for effective leadership. When a leader knows what triggers their stress, frustration, and even anger, they are in a better position to control those strong emotions and lead their team. Emotionally intelligent behavior, like thinking before speaking or responding to emails, builds trust between a manager and their team.

When employees know that their manager is reasonable and measured in their response, they will trust them enough to share their ideas, thoughts, and feelings and take ownership of their mistakes. Emphasizing the importance of trust, a Gallup poll of more than 1 million employed workers in the U.S. concluded that the number one reason people quit their jobs is because they don’t trust their bosses. Indeed, developing emotional intelligence is a key factor in building trust and retaining employees.

Best Ways to Build Trust with Your Team

Emotional Intelligence and Empathy

Oprah Winfrey once said, “Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.”

Displaying empathy is what connects us to others and allows us to see the world through their eyes. This is notably more challenging for most of us; it requires attention and focus on the other person.

The second and equally important pillar of emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and work with the emotions of others. Strong leaders acknowledge that everyone on their team is unique and has their own set of strengths and weaknesses. They do not expect others to think or behave exactly as they do, and they take the time to get to know their team on an individual level.

Leaders who excel at this make time to listen without distraction, ask open-ended questions, and diligently try to understand the person’s feelings as well as the facts. This allows the employee to feel that their voice is valued and appreciated. It also paves the way for the leader to offer constructive feedback, delivered in the most effective way for that individual.

Cultivating Empathy in the Workplace: 7 Insights for Difficult Times 

Developing Emotional Intelligence

Without a doubt, emotional intelligence is a key factor in leading any team or organization successfully. All of us can improve our level of emotional intelligence to some extent by following a few simple suggestions:

  • Pay attention to what causes you stress and how you respond. If you see the need to make a change, identify what behavior(s) you want to change and replace them with something more productive.
  • Q. expert Adele Lynn suggests asking yourself, “What do I do that brings out the best in others? What do I do that brings out the worst in others?” These questions focus on the impact of your actions and may bring to light some unintended consequences of those actions.
  • Listen to understand, not to respond.
  • Regularly ask for open and honest feedback and resist the urge to defend yourself if you don’t agree with what is said.
  • Help others to develop greater emotional intelligence by asking permission to offer suggestions for improvement. This approach reduces defensiveness and makes the other party more receptive to hearing your thoughts.
  • Utilize data like talent assessments to better understand an individual’s specific talents or strengths and coach them accordingly.

Like most skills, emotional intelligence takes time and effort to cultivate. When leaders make an effort to develop E.Q., they gain greater control over their own emotions, relate to and connect with their people, and coach each member of the team on an individual basis. Wouldn’t you like to work for a leader like that?

Watch this video series to ensure your employees are ALL IN all year long!

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About Author

Danielle Alleyne
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