What comes to mind when you think about emotional intelligence (EI)? Most people, that I ask this question, mention “empathy”, “feelings” or “self awareness”. But EI is actually so much more. Most individuals are not aware of the full depth to emotional intelligence and why every leader should invest in emotional intelligence.
In his book, the “Emotional Capitalists”1, Martyn Newman Ph.D. describes emotional intelligence as the greatest leadership asset. Emotional intelligence enables you to “achieve extraordinary things with ordinary people”.
Let’s break this down and explain what this means exactly and how you can improve your own and your team’s leadership capabilities through emotional intelligence.
Looking at your leaders
Think about a successful leader that you have come across in your career. What is or was it about them, that made you want to follow them, trust them, work with them?
Most likely this leader is confident, knowledgeable, calm, makes you feel safe, trusts and empowers you and has great impact on the business and people around them.
I immediately think about one of my managers, who had a huge impact on my professional life. The thing, that set him apart from others, is that he always takes the time to listen to everyone that needs support or has an idea, he treats everyone with respect and makes them feel important. He builds rapport by sharing personal stories, gets to know individuals and trusts them with information in return. These relationship building skills, are the key to his success. His teams trusts him and his vision and therefore, give him all their support in achieving the common target.
On top of that, he manages to stay calm in stressful situations. He always has this reassuring confidence in his own abilities and the abilities of his team and truly believes, that anything is achievable. If faced with setbacks, he stays optimistic and quickly thinks about alternative ways to achieve the desired outcome.
Leaders with high emotional intelligence are able to understand the influence and impact that their behaviours and personality has on others and can read the dynamics around relationships.
But what does emotional intelligence actually mean?
Newman describes EI as a set of interpersonal and personal competencies that can be divided into three major areas – focus on yourself, focus on others and an outer focus. The focus on yourself describes competencies that display how well you know and understand yourself and how well you understand your emotional reactions and behaviours and their effect on others. The focus on others describes, how well you understand others’ emotional drivers and behaviours and your ability to form strong relationships. The outer focus describes how well you can react to certain situations around you, for example how you adapt to changing or challenging circumstances.
In short, how well do you understand yourself, how well can you connect and relate to others and how well are you equipped for everything that happens in your life, work and the challenges you are facing.
How can emotional intelligence help you become a better leader?
Emotional intelligence, helps you to build your leadership presence. It all starts form within. The more you know yourself and understand your emotions and emotional triggers, the better you can start to manage these reactions to influence the desired outcome. This is especially important as a leader, as you do not want your team be influenced by your emotional reactions, for example the feeling of stress.
Furthermore, as a leader it is important, that you lead with confidence and authenticity to build trust. EI can help you to accept who you are and allow you to develop the confidence to show up in alignment with your authentic self and take responsibility for yourself and others.
The next piece of the EI puzzle is effective relationship management and communication skills. EI enables you to lead with empathy and build strong and collaborative relationships by learning to tune into others’ thoughts and emotions. Leaders with high emotional intelligence, are able to create strong relationships with their direct reports, peers and managers, as well as clients and other organisations.
Successful leaders understand, that the most important part of being a leader is, to value and support the people around you. It is not about you, it is about them and how you can best serve them.
It is important to understand, that as a leader you do not have the ability to claim power over others. Every individual chooses who they follow and trust. You have to earn this trust by being authentic and valuing others. That’s how you build influence as a leader.
Furthermore, EI helps you to develop resilience as a leader. Resilience can be described as your ability to adapt to changing environments and adjust your emotions accordingly. High resilient leaders are able to focus on the possibilities that come with challenges and draw from their inner energy source to stay focussed on the long term goals.
Emotional intelligence is your biggest asset as a leader
Leaders with highly developed emotional intelligence are able to lead with confidence and authenticity, they build strong and effective relationships with individuals in the organisation and their clients, they can communicate effectively, show high resilience and adaptability to change as well as inspire others through their leadership presence.
Emotional intelligence can be learned
The good news is, that emotional intelligence can be developed. They key is self-awareness and understanding your strengths and development opportunities within the EI competencies. An emotional intelligence assessment is the best way to understand and analyse the leadership potential of an individual and define a development plan to strengthen the EI competencies.
Are you a leader looking to invest in emotional intelligence? Now is your time! If you would like to discuss EI assessments for your leadership teams in your company or if you would like to understand how an EI assessment can help you for your leadership journey, click here!
Or download your free guide “The 20 Tips for Developing Emotional Intelligence”.
1 Newman, M. (2014). Emotional Capitalists. London. RocheMartin