Anyone who’s ever been employed can tell you how stressful even the most enjoyable job can get from time to time. Without proper leadership, many different personalities housed under the same roof can cause serious problems that can pollute company culture — even if everyone is more or less working toward the same goal.
For this reason, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that — aside from the relevant work prowess and skill sets they need to be effective — today’s great leaders also need to possess high EQ (emotional intelligence).
According to Psychology Today, emotional intelligence is the sum of three unique characteristics:
- The ability to be aware of your own emotions as well as the emotions of those around you
- The ability to apply emotions to thinking and problem-solving
- The ability to manage emotions internally and externally
Those who possess a high level of emotional intelligence better understand what makes people tick. In a workplace setting — where a routine day can become chaotic in a couple of minutes — this is particularly important. Here’s why:
1. Those with emotional intelligence possess self-awareness
Imagine everyone’s day is less than optimal. The quarter’s winding down, and everyone is scrambling to meet quotas and deadlines.
Now, let’s say a manager gets some bad news about something coming down the pipeline six months from now. If that person were to share the news with their team right away, things could get ugly — and fast.
Emotional intelligence allows people to be aware of themselves and how their behaviors and actions can affect other people — for better and for worse. While a leader who lacks emotional intelligence might be quick to inform their team about the bad news, the leader who’s extremely emotionally intelligent knows they can wait to share the news until the office quiets down and workflows return to normal.
2. Great leaders are able to keep their emotions in check
Because leaders that possess emotional intelligence are aware of how they can rub off on their employees, they understand that they should never let their emotions get the best of them. And this is important because just one uncalled-for outburst can severely damage team morale.
Instead of being driven by their emotions, great leaders keep them in check. When they are having a bad day, they don’t take it out on their staffs. On the flip side, when their teams are having a bad day and are incredibly stressed, they don’t go bragging about how great everything is and how happy they are to not have to be doing the grunt work.
3. They are also able to put themselves in their employees’ shoes
The leader who lacks emotional intelligence has no problem dumping even more tasks on their employees’ plates — even though 70% of them already feel overworked. This leader doesn’t even think about what adding more work to an increasingly pile does to the morale of their staff because they are simply unable to put themselves in their employees’ shoes.
On the other hand, emotional intelligence goes hand in hand with empathy. Leaders who are emotionally intelligent can easily assess whether their teams are happy and motivated or miserable and lacking energy.
If a leader senses their staff falls into the former category, they may very well decide it’s time to launch a new initiative, which may in fact add more work to their plates. But if the same leader senses the staff falls into the latter category, they will start brainstorming ways to improve morale before dumping more work on them.
4. Understanding emotions allows leaders to communicate more effectively
Leadership and communication go hand in hand. Leaders can’t expect their employees to do things a certain way if they’re unable to clearly communicate what they have in mind. Being an effective communicator requires a firm understanding of language and the ability to write or speak in a clear and concise manner. But it also requires an understanding of the audience they’re speaking to — which includes how those folks may be feeling at any particular point in time.
Emotionally intelligent leaders have their fingers on the pulse of their employees’ emotions. They also understand how their own emotions affect themselves at any given point in time. Altogether, this translates into the reality that leaders with emotional intelligence are able to communicate effectively in virtually all situations. They understand the appropriate times certain news items should be shared. They also understand appropriate venues to hold meetings at and the right tones to use to convey their thoughts.
An emotionally intelligent leader, for example, knows they shouldn’t publicly criticize an employee in an open-office setting two days after that person’s family member passed away. The leader understands it’s more appropriate to wait a week or two to discuss areas that need improvement in a much more private setting.
How to Boost Emotional Intelligence
Are you confident in your emotional intelligence? If not, don’t sweat it. Here are some tricks you can use to enhance your EQ:
- Use the pronoun we: To a certain extent, everyone is interested in themselves — particularly in the work environment. We want more money, more congratulations, and more responsibility. Emotionally intelligent leaders understand they have already climbed to the top of the ladder. They direct more of their focus on the group than they do themselves.
- Increase face-to-face time: We are social creatures. Though technology has made it easier than ever to communicate via digital text, nothing trumps actual face-to-face time. Whenever possible, speak to your team in the flesh. That’s what makes us human.
- Ask more questions: Leaders who talk down to their employees and rarely, if ever, solicit ideas from them are unlikely to produce great results. Ask your employees for their opinions on important things to prove you are involving them in the process and care about their concerns.
- Listen when employees talk: It’s not enough to ask questions. Most importantly, you need to actually listen to what your workers are telling you. That makes it easier to put yourself in their shoes and understand where they are coming from.
It may take some time to enhance your emotional intelligence, but it’s one of those leadership qualities that not every person possesses. And the work you put in will most certainly pay dividends down the road. Not only will you become a better manager, but your employees will be happier — and your bottom line will reflect it.
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