A magical concoction of psychological abilities known as emotional intelligence seems to be the secret weapon of the most gifted of leaders. It allows these leaders to manage their teams more effectively by motivating them and keeping them engaged at work.
Such leaders are highly self-aware and empathic, they comprehend and manage their own emotions while, by instinct, also understanding others’ feelings and determining their team’s disposition.
However, is emotional intelligence innate or learnt? Well, research shows that emotional intelligence occurs differently and varies from one leader to another. There is no secret formula that can be learnt and usually there is partly a natural predisposition which such leaders are born with and is in turn influenced by life experience, training and maybe even mentors and role models the person encounters in their life.
When all these elements are deployed effectively, emotional intelligence allows leaders to drive themselves, their teams and organisation to attain outstanding results.
So, what are the elements that contribute to emotional intelligence? These are self-cognizance, self-regulation, motivation and social skills/understanding. In the next part of the article, we will go through each one.
This is at the core of everything. It means that you are aware of your own strengths and weaknesses and that you are able to understand your emotions and the effect that they have on you and your team’s disposition. This is why it is important for you to perform a self-check on a constant basis.
You need to keep in mind that there is a reaction for every action, positive or negative. So, when you get a reaction to your actions you can analyse why you have acted in a particular way, how your actions have affected others and what reactions you have received in return. You should ask, are these the reactions that I was expecting? If not, how did my actions impact these individuals and how can I improve in the next encounter or meeting. Using your self-awareness will allow you to achieve the results you were hoping for in your future interactions.
In addition, you need to keep in mind that in order to bring out the best in others, you first need to bring out the best in yourself. This is where self-awareness comes into play. One easy way to assess your self-awareness is by completing 360-degree feedback, in which you evaluate your performance and then match it up against the opinions of your boss, peers, and direct reports. Through this process, you’ll gain insight into your own behaviour and discover how you’re perceived in the organisation. Self-awareness can be a powerful tool. Knowing the influence your mood and behaviour has on your team is essential for you to lead your team.
Self-regulation and control mean the capability to manage feelings, especially in demanding scenarios and to be able to keep up an upbeat disposition even though challenged. Individuals that do not have self-regulation act on impulse and find it harder to control themselves especially when stressed.
Exemplary leaders should handle stressful demands and keep back from having strong responses to the challenges they may face. Such outbursts can have a detrimental effect on the team’s confidence and outlook, can cause derailment from objectives and can also impact decisions taken. Leaders that are emotionally intelligent are able to regulate their emotions and focus their energy onto what will help them reach their objectives.
Emotionally intelligent leaders are mostly inspired by firm key principles. Moreover, they communicate these values distinctly and repeatedly to their teams and behave in ways that reinforce these values.
Identifying and understanding these guiding principles requires a high degree of emotional intelligence. This is because one needs to answer the following questions: WHAT you want to do and WHY you are enthusiastic about doing it. This process involves an element of self-reflection to actually think about your actions, and what drives you every day.
Moreover, such leaders possess superior personal work standards and strive towards consistently attaining objectives. They are able to understand what motivates their teams and will be able to use this insight to enthuse their colleagues to work to the best of their ability.
Emotionally intelligent leaders tend to have great social skills and are able to make strong emotional connections through their communication skills. These leaders are able to adapt to various audiences, scenarios and challenges and can change tactics to reach their objectives. This is particularly important when they need to manage a change process or resolve conflict in a diplomatic manner. I always say that it is not what you say but how you say it. Being a leader means it is inevitable that you will encounter situations where you need to communicate something that will not go down well, however, having the ability to demonstrate that you are acting with respect and fairness allows you to get the “buy in” you need from the people involved.
Having social skills also means that a leader is able to identify others’ sentiment and the underlying forces present in a company. Leaders who excel in this are able to practice empathy as they try to grasp their team’s feelings and perspectives. This allows them to converse and cooperate more successfully. If a leader is not emphatic s/he is unable to identify the effect of their behaviours on others. As a result, they can be hostile to their colleagues, may be too demanding or create a toxic work culture. An empathetic leader fosters an optimistic work environment which is reciprocated by dependability and reciprocal respect.
Leaders that strive to be effective must have a robust understanding of how their sentiments and behaviours influence the people around them. The better a leader relates to and works with others, the more successful he or she will be.
Take the time to work on the elements mentioned in this article as working on these will help you excel in the future!
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