We often think of our best leaders as brilliant technologists and salespeople who can craft, share, and sell ideas while inspiring those around them. But that brilliance is more than just raw knowledge and innate technical skills. Their emotional intelligence plays a key role in success both in terms of self-awareness and their ability to lead and manage others.
Which leader is more likely to succeed? The one that yells and threatens when under duress, or the one that can relax, step back and evaluate the situation carefully before making decisions?
For leaders to succeed, they must understand and work to improve their self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Let’s take a closer look at what these skills entail, why they are considered core to emotional intelligence, and what impact they can have on leaders and the teams they manage.
The Five Pillars of Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is based on five primary skills. These are domains in which leaders can work to improve their understanding and interaction with those around them. They include:
- Self-Awareness – For leaders, self-awareness represents the ability to fully understand how they are affected by their emotions, and in turn how their actions impact others. It can provide greater clarity of their strengths and weaknesses and help them better engage with a growing team.
- Self-Regulation – Through greater self-awareness, leaders can regulate their emotional responses to tense situations. This means fewer angry attacks and rushed decisions in “the heat of the moment”. Not only is self-regulation about controlling one’s emotions, it’s about a leader’s ability to hold themselves accountable when they don’t control them.
- Motivation – Motivation is a leader’s ability to work towards goals regardless of the adversities they face. They hold themselves to a higher standard than anyone else, and practice daily gratitude, looking for the positive signs of success that will encourage greater resilience.
- Empathy – How does someone else feel? What do they expect and how can their lives be made better? These are the questions an empathetic leader will ask. Empathetic leaders are focused on the personal and professional development of their employees and are skilled in holding people accountable for their actions and performance, while simultaneously motivating them to do better.
- Social Skills – Social skills take on many forms, but in the context of emotional intelligence, it most often refers to how a leader handles and influences other people and their emotions. This manifests in a leader’s ability to influence behaviors, communicate good and bad news, manage conflict, work through major changes in the organization, and collaborate with members of their team.
The Benefits of Improved Emotional Intelligence
Truly exceptional leaders come in many forms. Often, those who perform the highest for the longest amount of time are strong in a number of skills, especially those related to emotional intelligence. Some of the benefits these leaders gain from this include:
- Awareness and Control of Pride – Leaders often struggle to change course on a decision made in haste. Self-aware leaders can recognize when something isn’t working and are confident enough to admit a mistake and not let these strong emotions get in the way of making the right decision. Pride can be damaging not only to the leader but their team, who can see when a bad decision is made out of stubbornness. Through greater awareness, leaders can overcome this urge and make decisions in the best interest of everyone.
- Balanced Delivery of Good and Bad News – One of the most impactful things a leader can do is deliver news. Done properly it can motivate a team to perform at a higher level. Done poorly and it can either devastate or lull a team into a false sense of security. Leaders with strong emotional intelligence will recognize the impact that news will have on their team and deliver it in a way that encourages everyone.
- Improved Self-Care – Leaders with high emotional intelligence will not only recognize the signs of excessive stress and burnout but will proactive take steps to address the issues before they can impact employees and in turn the company. They set an example for their team and take actions to encourage employee self-care as well.
- Resilience in the Face of New Challenges – The environment of a fast-growing company can be loaded with challenges. Leaders with strong emotional intelligence can recognize the emotional impact a bad day has on their team and remain resilient, taking the bad news in their stride and balancing their response with the long-term implications.
Emotional intelligence can be developed and honed by leaders on the job – outside of books and with the support of the teams they surround themselves with. IQ alone is only a partial indicator of success. The ability to know oneself, connect with others, and weather a storm of challenges as you grow a business and mature as a leader are important indicators of sustained success.
To learn more, download our Guide with Tips for Better, More Insightful One-on-Ones. In it, you’ll learn how to get more out of your conversations, make sure others feel heard, and express your opinions and suggestions in line with the needs of others.