Emotional Intelligence – a key leadership trait for success
IQ might hog the headlines when it comes to defining intelligence. Yet emotional awareness is just as important and especially so in leaders says Desiree Perez, Leadership Coach
What actually is emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence is widely recognized as a valuable skill that helps improve communication, management, problem-solving, and relationships within the workplace. It is also a skill that researchers believe can be improved with training and practice.
Psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer, two of the leading researchers on the topic, define emotional intelligence as the ability to recognise and understand emotions in oneself and others. This ability also involves utilising this emotional understanding to make decisions, solve problems, and communicate with others.
I watched a video recently of an airplane taxiing to a gate where the wing touched the bridge. Thankfully, no one was hurt. There was substantial damage to the airplane and the airport equipment. The employees seemed complacent and not paying attention. Thee employees were not in the right position to have been able to avoid this accident.
There might be many reasons why the employees were complacent. One of the reasons could have been their emotional state, stress or disengagement.
How can we not only increase our ability to scan our own emotions but also pick up on those of our employees to help avoid accidents like the one above?
- Become more self-aware – One of the fundamentals of emotional intelligence is to become more self-aware. This means to learn more about our own emotions and feelings as we are encountering different situations. Our emotions and feelings are created by our thoughts. Out of 70.000 daily thoughts (yes, that’s true!), 60.000 are subconscious. So many times, what we are thinking is subconscious and won’t necessarily allow us to catch it. Learning about your thoughts, where they come from and what emotions and feelings trigger for you, is a first step in creating self-awareness.
- Pay attention to how you are feeling – How are those feelings influencing your reaction? Do these feelings have an impact on how you are showing up and how you interact with others? The more you reflect on this, the more aware you become on your own emotions and the role they play in your life.
- Take stock of emotional strengths and weaknesses – How well do you communicate with others? Do you find yourself experiencing anger, impatience or other emotions often? Recognising your strengths and weaknesses allows you to use your strengths more often and improve on your areas for opportunity.
- Remember that emotions are temporary – Our emotions don’t last forever. Often, you find yourself being upset or frustrated. So before you react, remember that our emotions are temporary before making rash decisions based on emotions. Sometimes taking the proverbial ‘walk around the block’ can be a very useful tool to avoid long term damage to your goals and success
- Self-regulation – Being able to recognise your emotions is an important first step. As a second step and as an important part of emotional intelligence, we need to be able to self-regulate. People who possess good self-regulation are able to adapt well to changing situations. They don’t bottle things up. They do wait for appropriate ways to express their emotions rather than just reacting impulsively at the moment.
Ways to start improving your self-regulation are to release workplace stress, keeping your cool and thinking before making decisions.
- Social skills – Research shows that people with high emotional intelligence also have good social skills. Employers and leaders with great social skills are able to build rapport with colleagues and communicate their ideas effectively. People with good social skills are not only great team players, but they are also able to take on leadership roles when needed. Ways to improve your social skills are to become an active listener and listen to what others have to say, paying attention to nonverbal communication, and honing your persuasion skills.
- Become more empathetic – Emotionally intelligent people are able to understand how others feel by looking at their perspective. In the workplace, empathy allows you to understand the different dynamics between colleagues and supervisors. It also allows you to recognize who holds power and how it influences behaviours, feelings, and interactions that flow from relationships. You can become more empathetic by seeing things from another person’s point of view and paying attention on how you respond to others.