Leading with Emotional Intelligence
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
To manage in the present work environment, being able to lead with emotional intelligence is now more important than ever. In fact, there is a strong correlation between a superior performance as a leader and a high level of emotional intelligence. Having a solid understanding of your own emotions and those of your employees can lead your team to a state of increased mindfulness, respect and productivity. Emotional intelligence is imperative to your success as a leader. Here are the top 5 emotional intelligence skills needed to improve leadership effectiveness.
- Self-awareness. As a self-aware leader you understand how you feel and recognize how your emotions affect your co-workers. This self-awareness also applies to recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses. Knowing your personal traits well means you can use them for the benefit of your team and organization. To improve self-awareness, take a moment to pause and engage in critical thinking when you confront an issue. Slowing down your response will help you ensure your reaction is appropriate.
- Self-regulation. Emotional intelligent leaders know that calmness is a superpower. They learn how to take a deep breath and stay still in the heat of the moment as they control their emotions. When leaders are calm and respond in an appropriate manner, employees feel both reassured and motivated to move forward positively. Acting in this style can also encourage your team members to do the same.
- Motivation. Leaders need to understand what they want to do and why they are doing it to stay motivated and maintain high work standards. Emotional intelligent leaders also need to know what makes their team members tick so they can motivate and incentivize them to work their best. One way to improve motivation as a leader is to value optimism. Not by just saying everything will be fine, but by verbalizing the benefits of different scenarios and using positive, productive discussion that communicates your commitment to succeed.
- Empathy. Leaders who possess empathy are able to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. This trait will help you overcome unfair assumptions, deliver constructive feedback and successfully develop individuals on your team. It also means being a good listener so you can respond appropriately in difficult situations. Remember that non-verbal cues can be just as important to look for from employees. For example, when someone has been uncharacteristically quiet, you may need to address the emotions behind the behavior. Give this person time to express their concern so you can work on a solution together. Being empathetic builds good team rapport and mutual respect.
- Social skills. Sometimes referred to as soft skills, great social skills allow leaders to make an emotional connection to employees with communication. Even bad news can be delivered more effectively if a leader has good social skills as sensitive issues like conflicts and managing change can be presented in a way that promotes a sense of opportunity and empowerment. These conversations often demonstrate that a leader both understands and respects the hopes, needs and fears of their team.