In this article, we’ll look at why emotional intelligence is so important for leaders — and how you, as a leader, can improve yours.
When you think of an “emulate-able” leader, what comes to mind? You might picture someone who never lets their temper get out of control, regardless of their surroundings. Or you might think of someone who has the complete trust of their staff, listens to the team, is easy to talk to, and always makes careful, informed decisions.
These are qualities of someone with a high degree of emotional intelligence. In a world where people are getting smarter by the day, education and training is getting more accessible to the masses, what differentiates a great leader from the mob is no longer the technical capability but how the softer side of emotional intelligence.
To begin with, let’s define the key word here; emotions. These are feelings experienced, interpreted, controlled, and expressed. They arise from social interactions, and are influenced by social, cultural, interpersonal, and situational factors (Martin, 1999). Emotions are aroused by the individual interpretation of events
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional Intelligence (EI), commonly referred to as EQ — emotional quotient — is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence know what they’re feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people.
Essential Skills for Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence is generally said to include three skills:
- Emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others;
- The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problems solving;
- The ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions, and the ability to cheer up or calm down another person.
Emotional Intelligence and Leadership
For leaders, having emotional intelligence is essential for success. After all, who is more likely to succeed — a leader who shouts at their team when under stress, or a leader who stays in control, and calmly assesses the situation?
To master emotional intelligence as leaders, we need to ask ourselves: how well do we understand the emotional make up of others and their needs? How sensitive are we in relating to others’ needs and helping them? How skillful are we in building lasting relationships?
The key to effective leadership is the ability to integrate your head (IQ) with your heart (EQ). I very much like what Jon Kabat-Zinn said:
In Asian languages, mind and heart are the same word. Mindfulness is not just about our minds bit our whole beings. When we are all mind, things get rigid. When we are all heart, things get chaotic. Both lead to stress. When the mind and the heart work together — the heart leading through empathy and the mind guiding us with focus and attention — we become harmonious human beings.
Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence
A person with high levels of EQ is mindful. Mindfulness is the practice of self-observation without judgment, with a focus on our minds and inner voices. Mindful practices include daily meditation, prayer, journaling, or jogging alone. In a fast paced world, mindfulness enables you to clear your mind of clutter, focus on what is important, and be true to yourself — be authentic. It is only when you master this that you will maintain a high degree of emotional intelligence.
In 1989, Psychologist Ellen Lanier, known to many as the Mother of Mindfulness, published a classic work titled “Mindfulness” in which she said:
Whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it mindfully or mindlessly. The consequences of being in one state of mind or the other are enormous. Virtually, all of the ills individuals experience are the result of mindlessness. As the culture becomes more mindful, we increase our effectiveness, our health, and our overall well-being.
This view makes me strongly believe that authentic leaders need to be mindful of their actions, decisions, utterances and virtually everything around them.
Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh said,
“The longest journey you will ever take is the eighteen inches from your head to your heart.”
Our hearts are where essential leadership qualities like passion, compassion and courage reside. By practicing mindfulness, leaders exhibit high levels of self-awareness and intentionality in their actions.
So, to conclude, we can say that people with high Emotional Intelligence easily make great leaders and team players because of their ability to understand, empathize, and connect with the people around them. In your quest to become a better leader, it is important for you to ensure you can manage your emotions, use your emotions to facilitate thinking, understand emotional meanings and accurately perceive others’ emotions.
This article was first published on medium. in May 2017.