The greatest leaders possess high levels of emotional intelligence…do you?
Published: 28th September 2020
When thinking about a truly great leader, the person who springs to mind is someone who has the complete trust of their staff, listens to their team, is easy to talk to and always receptive, whilst making careful, informed decisions.
The leader who doesn’t spring to mind is one who doesn’t take the time to listen, makes rash, unjustified decisions and is often curt and unfriendly.
The difference between these two hypothetical leaders is emotional intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions in any given situation and tune into those of the people around you. Having a high degree of emotional intelligence means you know what you’re feeling, what those emotions mean and how these can affect the people you come into contact with.
It’s imperative that leaders have a strong degree of emotional intelligence in order to succeed. Emotionally intelligent leaders are able to be in control of situations in a calm way, make rational decisions based on evidence rather than gut feeling or bias and lead their team in a way that fosters trust, respect and appreciation.
No matter how good your technical skills are, you’ll never become a truly successful leader without having a strong level of emotional intelligence to go along with it. According to a study by Harvard Business Review* having a degree of emotional intelligence is what sets 90% of high performers apart from their colleagues with similar knowledge and levels of technical skills.
If you recognise that your emotional intelligence levels might not quite be where they need to be, there are ways in which you can work to improve this and make yourself a better leader, or a more attractive prospect for promotion to a leadership role.
One of the key features of being emotionally intelligent is having a high level of self-awareness. This means having the ability to understand your own strengths and weaknesses as well as your emotions and how they could affect your own performance and that of your team. Analysing your own strengths and weaknesses by getting feedback from colleagues and superiors on what you’re best at is a great starting point for improving these.
Another of the key features of emotional intelligent individuals is having the ability to manage or regulate yourself and your emotions. This means being calm under pressure, not lashing out at others, not making emotional or unjustified decisions and always staying in control.
Emotionally intelligent people also have a high level of social awareness, which means being able to read the emotions and dynamics at play with those around you. In doing so, this means you’re better placed to be able to communicate and motivate your team in the most effective way.
Emotionally intelligent people are generally highly self-motivated and strive to work consistently towards their goals. If you recognise that you may need to improve your motivation levels, it’s important to start by looking at what your goals are and why you want to reach them. Once you’ve identified this, take a look at what stage you’re at with regards to reaching all of your goals and assess what you can do today to get closer towards them. Break things down into small, manageable steps and it’ll seem far easier to tackle.
Having a large amount of empathy for others is another example of skill successful leaders possess. This means being able to put yourself in someone else’s position in order to understand their viewpoint, rather than always looking at situations from your own. Try doing this each time you make a decision and see how stopping to consider other people can impact upon the final decision you make.
Emotionally intelligent leaders are also aware of their body language and the body language of others. Open body language suggests you’re open and interested in what the other person is saying, open to their opinions and open to the discussion. It also suggests engagement and a positive attitude meaning that your team members will feel far more likely to be able to discuss everything and anything with you, no matter how uncomfortable the subject might be. This is far more appealing than a manager with closed or negative body language, such as crossed arms or the tapping of a foot suggesting boredom or lack of interest and focus.
Taking the time to work on these skills to develop your emotional intelligence will undoubtedly pay off. Your increased self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills will soon make you stand out from the crowd and make you a more attractive candidate for leadership roles.
This article is featured in UP Magazine Issue 9