Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Think of a leader you admire. Chances are, you see them as intelligent, motivating, and inspiring. Maybe they have a knack for staying positive in tough situations.
Maybe they never let their temper get the best of them. Or maybe they’re humble enough to listen to the opinions of others before making executive decisions.
Whoever your admired leader is and whatever qualities they possess that make them great, chances are they possess those qualities because they’re emotionally intelligent.
Great leaders are usually smart, but that intelligence can be taken to a whole new level with the emotional capacity to back it up.
Defining Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is often defined as the capability to understand your own emotions and manage them.
Within the realm of leadership, it goes beyond yourself into the ability to perceive and manage the emotions of those around you.
Emotionally intelligent leaders can recognize how they themselves feel, but they also know other people feel, what those feelings mean, and the effect they might have on others.
This article will take a look at the 5 basic traits of emotionally intelligent leaders, and how you can integrate those traits into your own leadership ability.
Emotionally intelligent leaders don’t seek motivation from others—they make their own. They don’t need anyone else to prod them along in working toward getting what they want.
These leaders have clear goals they work toward in a consistent way, and they have high standards for how they achieve them.
Finding Your Motivation
To improve your own self-motivation, it helps to examine your goals. Why did you choose them? What did you love about your career course when you started? If you’re no longer energized by your career path, try remembering why you used to love it.
Motivation takes enthusiasm, and enthusiasm not only requires hope but breeds it in those you work with. If you’re optimistic about the future despite current challenges, you can more easily inspire optimism in others.
When things get tough or failure feels imminent, look for the positive, however small.
Holding onto those positives can help you maintain the hope and motivation you need to turn a hard situation into a springboard toward the future. And that’s what leaders do.
Leaders with emotional intelligence are able to regulate themselves and their emotions. They rarely, if ever find themselves verbally attacking others.
They maintain emotional control even when provoked, and they don’t make rash decisions based on emotion.
This doesn’t make them control freaks. On the contrary, it means they’re flexible enough to recognize when their emotions are about to get the best of them.
Instead of losing control, they take an introspective look at how they can handle themselves better and act accordingly.
A big part of self-control is holding yourself accountable. Do you hold yourself accountable for mistakes or lapses in judgment, or do you tend to push responsibility to someone else?
It may require you to ask yourself some tough questions, but great leaders admit their mistakes and own the consequences.
Everyone makes mistakes, but leaders earn the respect of their peers when they face them head-on.
Self-control also takes self-awareness. The next time you face a challenge or impending argument, take notice of your emotions and actions. The old adage to take a deep breath before reacting is actually sound science.
Even at the moment, this can help you practice staying calm. Later on, try talking to an impartial friend or writing down those emotions to get them out of your system.
Think about how you might have reacted at the moment and evaluate if that reaction would have been fair.
3. Self Awareness
In order to have self-control, you have to be self-aware. Self-aware leaders are emotionally intelligent because they monitor how they feel and how their emotions can affect others when displayed.
Beyond emotional monitoring, being self-aware also helps leaders understand their own weaknesses as well as strengths.
Self-awareness breeds humility and a willingness to examine where you might fall short and work to improve those areas.
Developing better self-awareness can be as simple as keeping an honest journal. Document your thoughts, successes, failures, and feelings. Nobody else will read it, so be honest with yourself.
When you have a bad experience or reaction to something, write down what happened. Explain what led to your reaction, how it affected those around you, and what you think you might have done better.
Being self-aware can help you in other key areas of emotionally intelligent leadership, such as self-control and empathy.
Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings or situations of others and put yourself in their place. Having empathy as a leader can help you keep feedback constructive rather than insulting.
It can help you recognize when people aren’t being treated fairly, and make you a better listener.
Step Outside Yourself
Practice being empathetic by stepping outside yourself and into someone else’s shoes.
Remember a time when you might have faced similar struggles or criticisms, and how your superiors handled it—for better or worse.
How did you feel? What did someone else do or say that either buoyed you up or made you feel lower?
Also, pay attention to other people’s body language and tone of voice. For example, if your client sits far away from you with his arms crossed, he may be taking a subconscious defensive posture—what might he be defensive about?
Read up on what nonverbal communication like posture or gestures might be telling you, so you can respond appropriately.
5. Social Skills
Effective leaders have the emotional intelligence that leads to great social skills. Social skills include things like effective communication and the ability to rally support.
Your social skills will also impact the way you carry yourself and build rapport in a room of people.
Improving Social Skills
Learning to resolve conflict is an important social skill for any great leader. You might have to step in to resolve issues between members of your team, your employees, and clients, or find an amicable way to handle a vendor dispute.
A big part of being able to resolve conflicts is listening, then practicing self-control and empathy. These skills will help you communicate more effectively and less emotionally, even when tension is high.
Giving praise or credit to others takes a certain amount of emotional intelligence; requiring you to step outside your task list and recognize when someone else deserves kudos.
Emotionally intelligent leaders understand that giving credit where it’s due doesn’t cast any doubt on their own responsibility for success.
Perhaps most significantly, giving praise to others in public boosts not only that person’s morale, but their perception of you as a leader.
To truly be an effective leader, you need to develop and then continually exercise your ability to see, evaluate, and understand your emotions and the feelings of others.
Only then can you train yourself to respond and relate to those in your charge.
Emotionally intelligent leadership has a way of rubbing off on others in your organization, improving everyone’s chances of success.
How Do You Showcase Your Emotional Intelligence?
If you have ideas about emotional intelligence that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!
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