Emotional Intelligence refers to the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. For several years, people saw this capacity as having little to do with leadership. On the contrary, most regarded anything remotely related to emotions as being an obstacle that needed to be overcome to become an influential leader in a competitive business.
At the start of our leadership training programmes, we typically ask participants a simple question: “Think of the best leader you ever experienced personally. What did he/she do that singles them out in your mind?”
Everyone’s been influenced by leaders; be it at home, at work, at school or even in voluntary organisations. The best leaders stick in our minds long after we or they move on. Their influence has made us who we are and has shaped our values and work ethic. Below are the five most influential characteristics that our trainees mention in reply to our question:
The best leaders:
- Know their strengths and their areas of weaknesses and are not afraid to ask for help or other people’s opinion
- Express their negative emotions (disappointment, frustration, anger) without destroying the relationship with their team members
- Persist in their efforts and belief when times get tough and inspire others to do the same
- Get to know their team members on an individual basis and treat them as more than just employees
- Understand what motivates each team member whilst treating everybody with fairness.
It is no surprise that the majority of the qualities mentioned are skills that result from having high emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence has been frequently cited as the crucial difference between mediocre leaders and the best. Various studies show that on average, for success at the highest levels (i.e. in leadership positions) emotional competence accounts for virtually the entire advantage. Unlike IQ (intelligence quotient), we can develop our EQ (emotional quotient).
Three simple yet effective ways to develop your emotional intelligence as a leader are:
- Take a moment each day to get in touch with how you are feeling inside. Mindful meditation and journaling can be practical ways to develop this
- In performance reviews, encourage team members to give you feedback on your behaviour and performance, making it safe for them to do so without fear of retribution.
- Get curious about how other people are feeling. Spend 30 minutes in regular one-to-one sessions with your team members where you simply listen to how they’re getting on in their job.
If you are in a position of leadership, ask yourself, “Will my team members remember me as a great or a mediocre leader?”