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Why Every Leader Needs Emotional Intelligence

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Emotional intelligence is defined as having the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.

Have you ever had a manager that yelled and screamed when things went wrong? Or one that reacted badly every time stressful situations occurred?

Have you been this leader, either in your past or present? This type of leader is lacking emotional intelligence.

Sometimes emotional intelligence develops with age, with training, or sometimes it doesn’t develop at all.

Are your employees engaged? If you have bad managers in your business, you will lose good employees. If you are small business, now is the time to ensure you are hiring great people from the start. You should also ensure you and your current leaders have strong emotional intelligence.

Although there has been a lot of research about emotional intelligence in the last decade, it is important to understand why your leaders need it.

According to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist who helped identify emotional intelligence, there are five key elements:

1. Self-Awareness

This is having the ability to identify one’s own emotions. This is when you can see what affects you and others the most – positively and negatively. People with a high emotional intelligence understand what they are feeling. They also know how their emotions can affect other people.

How can you develop self-awareness? Analyze your emotions. When you get angry or when you are upset, analyze why you feel the way you do. How did you react? Did you blame others? What could you do better next time? You should always think about what you can do to improve your reactions to negative circumstances.

2. Self-Regulation

This is having the ability to control your emotions. You can think rationally when a problem occurs. You don’t panic, but you stay in control and problem solve an issue. It doesn’t mean you hold in your emotions. You just know the right time and place to express those emotions in a controlled manner.

If you don’t have self-regulation, practice being calm. Don’t shout at others. Be aware of how you act and try to control your negative reactions. People make mistakes sometimes as well. Hold yourself accountable and don’t blame others when you are the reason for the mistake.

3. Social Skills

You are able to understand others and you can recognize their emotions, have good listening and communication skills, and be comfortable in social situations.

If you don’t have good social skills, work to develop them. Take a conflict resolution class to help conflicts within your teams. Work on improving your communication skills. Know when to praise others for a job well done. Identify the soft skills you are weak on and do everything you can to develop those, so you will improve.

4. Empathy

You are able to help others through struggles and can help calm them down. These leaders try to understand what a person is going through.

Pay attention to others and how they feel about situations. Watch their body language. Is there something you can do to help them through work disappointments? Sometimes, having your manager help you through bad times makes it all a little bit better.

5. Motivation

These leaders are typically motivated by more than recognition and money. They are motivated by fulfilling their own inner needs. They have a passion for what they do, and they are always looking for ways to do something better.

Understand why you are doing what you do. Are you in the position because it looks good on your resume or because you like the pay raise? You may be in the role for the wrong reasons. Discover other factors which show why you are motivated to do your job. Become optimistic to help others and help the company. Think about what you liked about your former favorite managers.

Having good leadership skills is important. Having emotional intelligence helps those skills.

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Hiring emotional intelligent leaders

So how do you find good leaders with high emotional intelligence? By asking the right interview questions, you should be able to find out more.

Whatever questions you ask to find out their emotional intelligence, they should be able to describe how they felt about a situation and describe their reaction. If they didn’t do well or respond well, they should be able to explain to you what they did to improve.

For example, you could ask:

“Tell me about a time when you received negative feedback from your manager and it wasn’t what you were expecting? How did that make you feel? What did you do about it?”

How did they answer the question? Everyone receives feedback on how they need to improve at some point in their career. How did they deal with the criticism? Did they learn from it? Someone with emotional intelligence may have been hurt by the criticism. But they didn’t let that affect them. They were still able to improve.

Does this response show good emotional intelligence? “Well my last boss told me I had a problem with time management. But, honestly, I don’t. I may have been late on a couple of projects but that was because others weren’t turning their portion of the project in to me on time.”

Is this a better response? “My last manager told me I had a problem with time management. I didn’t turn in a couple of projects on time. At first, it kind of bothered me. But then I realized she was right. I recognized where some issues occurred. I developed a project timeline map and sent it to everyone on the team to ensure I received what I needed on time. Then, this gave me time to complete my portion, so I could turn in the final product by the deadline.

The second response is much better. It shows this person not blaming someone else and they were able to take ownership of their weaknesses. They learned from their mistakes.

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Benefits of having emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligent people will be open to you about how they felt in situations. They will be able to tell you what they did about it and how they became better because of that feedback.

If someone is hesitant to tell you their feelings or won’t tell you about any criticism, you should think about moving on to another candidate. Especially if you are hiring for a leadership position.

Be wary of candidates who blame a system, a company, or their previous manager. We have all have bad managers, but there are good managers. Those that have motivated us, helped us improve, and taught us skills.

Emotionally intelligent people know how to move on from a bad experience. They don’t stay focused on that experience or hold resentments. They move on to the next great thing and learn to keep their emotions in check.

Finally, ensure you are training your current leaders in your small business to become emotionally intelligent. If you or your managers are lacking in this skill, find training programs which helps to build soft skills. You should also discuss your expectations with them if you want to invest in them further.

Author: Kimberley Kay Travis

Kim Travis has over 20 years of experience in business, human resource management, and leadership roles. She has specialized knowledge in employment law, employee relations, recruiting, management consulting, small business growth, leadership development, workplace safety and health programs, and writing business content.