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Why Every Leader Needs Emotional Intelligence

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All leaders need emotional intelligence. 

Have you ever had a boss who got angry and shouted when things went wrong? Or one who reacted poorly in stressful situations?

That kind of leader lacks emotional intelligence. 

Emotional intelligence (EI), also known as emotional quotient (EQ), is about understanding and managing your own emotions and those of others. It means being aware of how you feel, understanding how others feel, and handling relationships well. It helps you communicate better, solve problems, and get along with others. Also, it is important for success in both your personal and professional life. Psychologist Daniel Goleman came up with the idea in the 1990s. Since then, EI has been seen as a crucial part of being successful, especially as a leader.

How would you rank your EI? Do you struggle with this aspect of your life? Are your employees engaged?

Here are the key components of EI:

1. Self-Awareness

This is about knowing your own feelings. It’s when you can see what makes you and others feel good or bad. Also, people with high EI understand their emotions and how they can affect others.

How do you get better at self-awareness? Think about your feelings. When you’re angry or upset, ask yourself why. How did you react? Did you blame others? What could you do differently next time? It’s important to always think about how you can react better to bad situations.

2. Self-Regulation

This is about controlling your feelings. You can stay calm and think clearly when there’s a problem. You don’t panic; instead, you stay in control and figure out a solution. Additionally, it doesn’t mean you ignore your feelings. You just know when and how to express them calmly.

If you struggle with self-regulation, practice staying calm. Furthermore, don’t yell at others. Pay attention to how you act and try to control any negative reactions. Remember, everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Take responsibility for your actions and don’t blame others when you’re the one at fault.

3. Social Skills

This is about understanding others and their feelings. It means being a good listener, communicator, and feeling comfortable in social settings.

If you struggle with social skills, work on them. Also, take a class on solving conflicts to help with team issues. Practice improving your communication. Learn when to compliment others for their good work. Figure out which social skills you’re not so good at and try your best to get better at them. This way, you’ll improve over time.

4. Empathy

Empathy is the capacity to understand and share how others feel. Leaders with lots of empathy can connect with their team members well. Additionally, they show they care, feel for others, and understand them. They also listen well, respect others’ feelings, and think about different views when making decisions.

5. Motivation

These leaders are typically motivated by more than recognition and money. They’re motivated by something deeper inside them. Also, they love what they do and are always looking for ways to do it better.

Think about why you’re in your job. Is it just for your resume or a pay raise? Maybe you’re in it for the wrong reasons. Additionally, find out what motivates you. Stay positive to help others and your company. Remember what you liked about your best managers in the past.

Sometimes, EI grows as you get older or with training. But sometimes, it doesn’t grow at all. If your business has bad managers, you might lose good employees. Whether your business is new or old, it’s important to hire great people, especially leaders. They should have strong emotional intelligence.

Impact on Teams

EI influences team dynamics by promoting effective communication, collaboration, cohesion, conflict resolution, and innovation. When leaders have high EI, they understand and express their feelings well. This makes communication in the team clearer and more open. 

EI also helps team members trust each other and work together better. Leaders with EI make everyone feel safe to share their thoughts and feelings without worrying about being judged. This creates a team that supports each other, which leads to more success and happiness.

Think about teams that you were on, how did they interact?

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How to Develop Emotional Intelligence

Developing emotional intelligence is a journey that requires self-awareness, reflection, and practice. Here are some strategies for leaders to improve their emotional intelligence:

Self-Awareness Exercises

These are activities that help them understand their feelings, strengths, and areas where they can improve. They could try writing in a journal, doing mindfulness exercises, or asking others for feedback.

Emotion Regulation Techniques

These are strategies to help them handle their emotions better. They can try things like deep breathing, mindfulness, and positive self-talk. It’s also helpful for them to figure out what things make them feel emotional and find ways to deal with them.

Empathy-Building Activities

These are ways for them to practice understanding how others feel. They could try things like role-playing exercises, storytelling sessions, or volunteering experiences. Additionally, these activities help leaders see life from different perspectives and understand diversity better.

Active Listening Skills

Train leaders in active listening. This means listening carefully to understand and validate how others feel. They can learn techniques for active listening and practice them during team meetings, one-on-one talks, and performance evaluations. Furthermore, this helps leaders show genuine interest and empathy towards others.

Conflict Resolution Training

Leaders can take part in conflict resolution training. This training helps them learn how to handle conflicts and disagreements positively. Also, they can learn techniques for calming conflicts. This helps them find solutions that work for everyone. They ensure everyone’s needs are considered. Furthermore, this helps leaders create solutions that benefit everyone involved.

Social Skills Development

Provide methods for leaders to enhance their social skills. This involves giving them chances to improve how they interact with others. Also, they can join in networking events, public speaking workshops, and team-building exercises. They should practice being assertive, giving helpful feedback, and building strong relationships with others. Furthermore, this helps leaders communicate better. They also build trust with their teams.

Continuous Learning

Stress to your leaders how important it is to keep learning and growing to improve emotional intelligence. They can do this by reading books, going to seminars, and taking courses on emotional intelligence, leadership, and psychology. Additionally, these activities help leaders understand emotions better. They become more skilled in leading others.

Seeking Feedback and Coaching

Leaders should seek feedback and coaching. This means asking for advice from their peers, supervisors, and team members. Furthermore, they can also get coaching and mentoring from others to help them improve. This support helps leaders grow and develop into better leaders.

Lead by Example

Furthermore, leaders should lead by example. This means showing others how to act with emotional intelligence. They can demonstrate self-awareness, empathy, and resilience in their interactions with others. By doing this, they become role models for their team members to follow.

Practice Patience and Perseverance:

This means understanding that improving EI takes time and effort. They should encourage themselves to keep going, even when it feels tough. Also, it’s vital to celebrate the progress they make along the way.

Hiring Emotional Intelligent Leaders

So how do you find good leaders with high EI? 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?”

Using behavioral-based interview questions can help you find out more about someone’s EI. However, people can train to respond correctly to answer these questions. Consider, changing your phrasing to say, “If I spoke to your manager, what would they say about how you received negative feedback and how you responded?”

This tells them that you will probably speak to their manager, and they will respond how they think their manager will. 

Dig deeper. 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.

Benefits of Emotional Intelligence

Emotionally intelligent people will be open to you about how they feel. They can tell you what they did and how they became better because of the feedback. If someone doesn’t tell you their feelings or won’t tell you about any criticism they received, 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, a team, or their previous manager. We all have had bad managers. We have also had good ones. Those who have motivated us, helped us improve, and taught us skills. What do your candidates talk about?

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

Finally, make sure 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 that help build soft skills. You should also discuss your expectations with them if you want to invest in them further.

Great top-notch leaders are vital for your small business. When you have a winning team, your business has a better chance of thriving. If they aren’t experienced leaders, consider sending them to leadership courses to improve their skills. 


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.