Emotional Intelligence: The Key to Effective Leadership
Over the last few decades there was a common belief that a particular set of skills, educational background and expertise in a certain field will make you an outstanding leader. Partially, I would agree on that, because our skills and qualities are the entry requirements for a leadership position. However, being “the smartest guy in the room” is not enough to make you an effective leader and to let you stay in the leadership position for a long time.
Effective leaders are focused on getting the right things done, they are enthusiastic about embracing change, they make others feel important and help others succeed. But, as it turns out, high level of IQ or availability of technical skills can’t fully predict effectiveness and high performance of a leader. Why?
Daniel Goleman, author of the New York Times bestseller Emotional Intelligence that was published in 1995, found that, besides such common qualities that are generally associated with leadership (i.e. vision, determination, cognitive abilities) emotional intelligence is crucial for leaders. The author states that our ability to recognize and regulate emotions in ourselves as well as others will not only help us to become outstanding leaders, but will also increase our performance and the performance of the whole team.
Daniel Goleman was the first to apply the concept of emotional intelligence to business methods. Until that time most scientists were focused on studying cognitive intelligence and its influence on decision making and human behavior. In his book Daniel Goleman illustrates a number of evidences that emotional intelligence is an essential ingredient for effective leadership and success.
As it turns out, human beings make decisions in an emotional manner and then justify them rationally. When we are presented with particular external stimuli or triggers, the part of the brain responsible for emotions is the first to react. By understanding their emotions, being aware of the cause behind a particular emotion, leaders can manage their response to external stimuli, and, thus, perform in a more effective way and make better decisions.
There is no short-cut to making the right decisions, but there is an evidence that leaders with a high level of emotional intelligence make better decisions, because they pay attention to what their emotions are telling them, they trust their guts and they don’t make decisions based on the first impulses. Furthermore, since individuals with highly developed emotional intelligence regard challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, they rarely think of themselves as victims of their circumstances or get stopped by hurdles. Instead, they are the ones who, as a general rule, make things happen and take the first step towards change.
According to Daniel Goleman, EI involves the following components: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, social skills (see infographic).
Very often people ask the following question “Are leaders born or made?” In reality everyone can learn and increase his level of EI. The key is willingness to always work on yourself.
The first component of EI – self-awareness – is, actually, one of the most important components which lays a firm foundation for all other EI competencies. Being self-aware means that one precisely knows how she/he feels at the moment, what he/she wants and what causes his/her particular emotional response. Unfortunately, many people are afraid of emotions and they tend to avoid them at any price, but such an approach can also bring negative consequences. For example, if an entrepreneur is offered an opportunity to collaborate with someone, but deep down his inner voice tells him not to do so and he will ignore this feeling, he might make a wrong decision and this mistake can be costly in the long run. Very often our inner voice signals us about the possible problem or a great opportunity. And the leader who makes time to reflect on his thoughts and emotions is more likely to distinguish risks from opportunities and take the right steps, because he knows what is important at the moment and what is important in the long term.
Being self-aware means that one also knows about his strength and weaknesses. Leaders with high EI capitalize on their strengths and easily admit their weaknesses. They aren’t frustrated with failure, instead they see it as part of the process, like a stepping stone to success. Leaders with a high degree of self awareness demonstrate self-confidence, they are honest with themselves and they are also able to assess their abilities accurately. They regard feedback and criticism as an opportunity for self-development.
Tips to improve your self-awareness:
1.Don’t hide from your emotions. Make it a habit to analyze your emotions and the reason behind them.
Second component – self-regulation – is no less important than self-awareness and it infers our ability to manage our emotions. Self-awareness and self-regulation are two interdependent components, because we can manage our emotions only if we understand them. Leaders who are great masters of emotions are, as usual, also great masters of change. They welcome change and are ready to respond to it. Instead of being afraid of uncertainty, they demonstrate flexibility.
The world of business is full of uncertainties, but the outcome fully depends on us. We have two choices: we may let changes or uncertainties get us off track or we can embrace changes and benefit from them.
Next time you will face a situation like that, just ask yourself if it is a possibility of uncertain outcome that scares you or you simply aren’t prepared at that moment to assume greater responsibility. Being honest with yourself will pay off, because you will be able to manage your emotions and situation to your benefit.
Leaders with a high degree of self-regulation take responsibility for their emotions. They never let negative emotions lead them to self-destruction. Instead, they nurture positive emotions and spread them all around which helps to build effective relationship with other people.
Third component – motivation – helps distinguish high performers. They are motivated to achieve, do things better and make things happen. Highly motivated leaders influence other people to achieve more, they lead by example. Furthermore, they are good at defining priorities and continually look for actions that will lead them towards the goal.
One of the best ways to keep yourself motivated is to constantly remind yourself the reason why you started. Seek for the sources that inspire you and help you stay on track even during the toughest times. And, of course, you have to be passionate about what you do. Effective leaders always know the reason “why” they do something and they are able to communicate that vision to all others in a proper way.
Forth component – empathy – is vitally important for leaders who work within a team. This component infers our ability to recognize feelings of others and understand their meaning. In simple words, you put yourself in the shoes of the other person to understand why that person feels and behaves in a certain way. As a leader you should pay a close attention to this component because it will help you establish and manage a better relationship with others. Understanding their feelings will help you take a better approach towards others and also make team work more effective. Your task as a leader also includes to help others recognize the reason behind a particular emotional response and suggest ways to manage things in order to create a win-win situation.
The fifth component – social skills – determines our ability to get on well with others and reach common agreement. Leaders with well developed social skills remain focused on helping others to achieve their goals, they communicate their vision in an open and effective manner, and are good at resolving conflicts. This ensures a much more productive and happier work environment. Leaders increase their value when they can take steps to improve productivity, engage people to work on a mutual goal and influence them to improve their performance.
by Natalie Myhalnytska
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