In this series, we will look at the first trait from the “Trait Theory of Leadership”—Emotional Intelligence.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
You might picture someone who never lets his temper get out of control, no matter what problems he’s facing. Or you might think of someone who has the complete trust of her staff, listens to her team, is easy to talk to, and always makes careful, informed decisions. These are qualities of someone with a high degree of emotional intelligence.
In this article, we’ll look at why emotional intelligence is so important for leaders—and how you, as a leader, can improve yours.
Emotional intelligence or EI is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence know what they’re feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people. For leaders, having emotional intelligence is essential for success. After all, who is more likely to succeed—a leader who shouts at his team when he’s under stress, or a leader who stays in control, and calmly assesses the situation?
According to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist who helped to popularise emotional intelligence, there are five key elements to it:
- Social skills
The more that you, as a leader, manage each of these areas, the higher your emotional intelligence. If you’re self-aware, you always know how you feel, and you know how your emotions and your 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, and it means behaving with humility.
Leaders who regulate themselves effectively rarely verbally attack others, make rushed or emotional decisions, stereotype people, or compromise their values. Self-regulation is all about staying in control. Self-motivated leaders work consistently toward their goals, and they have extremely high standards for the quality of their work.
For leaders, having empathy is critical to managing a successful team or organisation. Leaders with empathy have the ability to put themselves in someone else’s situation. They help develop the people on their team, challenge others who are acting unfairly, give constructive feedback, and listen to those who need it.
Leaders who do well in the social skills element of emotional intelligence are great communicators. They’re just as open to hearing bad news as good news, and they’re expert at getting their team to support them and be excited about a new mission or project. Leaders who have good social skills are also good at managing change and resolving conflicts diplomatically. They’re rarely satisfied with leaving things as they are, but they don’t sit back and make everyone else do the work: they set an example with their own behaviour.
To be effective, leaders must have a solid understanding of how their emotions and actions affect the people around them. The better a leader relates to and works with others, the more successful he or she will be.
The writer is Executive Director, BSI Learning Group. http://au.linkedin.com/in/kphilip