Would you like to improve your ability to manage your stress, relationships and emotions as a leader? Exploring our emotional intelligence (EI) provides us with an understanding of how to do just that. Developing our EI helps us to be more self-aware and know how to consciously respond versus impulsively react to others. Furthermore, understanding what triggers our emotions allows us to develop our leadership skills by improving how we manage difficult situations and resolve conflict with others.
What is EI?
At a very high level, when sensory inputs enter our brain, they trigger emotional responses as well as the release of hormones, such as serotonin (the happiness hormone) or cortisol (the stress hormone). Sensory inputs trigger emotions, and emotions trigger behavior.
Emotions are what move and motivate us to respond and take action. They also influence many aspects of how we manage our daily lives, such as how we handle relationships, along with decision making and problem-solving activities. Emotion is our mental state of being relating to our thoughts, feelings and behavior.
Intelligence is a complex concept; however, it refers to our general cognitive abilities to reason, learn and perceive relationships. Leading researchers John Mayer and Peter Salovey were instrumental in developing a theory on emotional intelligence that consists of four domains: perceiving emotions, facilitating thought, understanding emotions and managing emotions. Although it is likely that everyone can benefit from improving their EI, it has been my observation as a professional development coach that emotional intelligence is a critical aspect of successful leadership in particular.
Why is it important to understand and develop EI as a leader?
Being aware of our emotions can be key to successfully interacting with others. Since leadership is widely considered to be the ability to influence and guide others, the ability to successfully interact with others supports the criticality of EI in leaders. Therefore, in my opinion, highly effective leaders have the ability to inspire others to direct their efforts and energy to achieve a goal. Furthermore, I would also suggest that leaders should be confident and competent in their ability to step up in times of crises and think clearly and calmly to address difficult situations.
Building and maintaining interpersonal relationships is the proving ground for highly effective leaders. The ability to build and maintain relationships is a reflection of a leader’s emotional quotient (EQ; a measurement of EI). It has been my experience that when our interpersonal relationships are working well, we are able to establish key attributes such as trust, respect and credibility, which are associated with highly effective leaders. In addition, when our interpersonal relationships are working well, we are more likely to inspire and motivate our team to move forward with passion and enthusiasm, and, as a result, drive desired outcomes.
How satisfied are you with your relationships at work?
Using a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the absolute bottom (designating that you are extremely dissatisfied) and 10 being at the top of your game (designating that you are extremely satisfied), what number best represents your current level of satisfaction with your relationships at work?
I would propose that the ability to build and maintain interpersonal relationships is where the rubber meets the road to be a highly effective leader. Out of all the attributes, skills and abilities necessary for effective leadership, why is EI so important? No matter how we look at it, human beings are socially and emotionally connected creatures. We want to feel valued, acknowledged and respected, and we long for acceptance and desire to experience a sense of belonging. It has been my observation that leaders who put EI at the center of their leadership approach develop healthy relationships with others, which, in turn, creates an environment of trust, commitment and safety. A healthy work environment can increase performance, creativity and quality of work as well as stability and loyalty within the workforce.
What are ways to improve EI?
Be an active listener, including being aware of nonverbal cues.
Think before you speak; continuously work on improving communication skills.
Be comfortable with praising others.
Accept, value and appreciate others for their uniqueness.
Learn conflict resolution skills.
Demonstrate patience and empathy.
Manage your own stress; slow down and calm down.
Get to know your employees and peers; know what challenges them and soothes them.
Identify and manage what triggers your own emotions.
Identify and manage what triggers your co-workers’ emotions.
Don’t be shy about engaging with a mentor, coach or other resources for help.
Emotional intelligence has been defined as the ability to recognize and manage triggers that prompt your emotions, as well as the ability to recognize and manage triggers that prompt emotions of those in your relationship circle. Therefore, the more you, as a leader, are aware of and the better you manage the elements to building and maintaining interpersonal relationships, the higher your emotional intelligence, and thus, it would stand to reason, the more effective of a leader you will be.