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How emotional intelligence is linked to great leaders

By Ana Isabel Alonsagay

No matter your technical skills and expertise, emotional intelligence (EI) defines effective leadership. Those with a high degree of EI have a firmer grasp on their emotions, what they mean, and how they influence their attitudes, judgements and interactions with other people. An essential key to success, the trait lends itself to quality team performance, higher worker motivation, and continuous innovation. 

Daniel Goleman, an expert on emotional intelligence in the workplace, states that “even if [leaders] get everything else just right, if [they] fail in this primal task of driving emotions in the right direction, nothing they do will work as well as it could or should.”

Furthermore, a study by TalentSmart found that EI accounted for 58% of success among all types of jobs, with 90% of surveyed top performers found to have high levels of EI.

So, how exactly does emotional intelligence foster great leadership, and how does one improve such skills for the workplace? 

SkillsTalk dive into the role of EI among effective leaders, and how to enhance it for better business results. 

How is emotional intelligence linked to great leaders?

  1. It helps them boost workplace morale.
  2. It creates adaptive leaders.
  3. It fosters self-awareness and self-regulation.
  4. It fosters self-motivation.

1. It helps them boost workplace morale.

teamwork concept

As emotional intelligence dictates how a leader approaches and communicates to their team, those with high EI levels commonly excel in their social skills and empathy – boosting employee morale in the process.

Emotionally intelligent leaders are adept at gauging others’ emotions, helping place them in others’ shoes should conflict or issues arise. They have a sound level of social awareness, with the ability to assess the emotional climate of any setting. This allows them to respond in a sincere, appropriate manner, either matching one’s tone or mitigating any unresolved tension. 

Their communication skills help them in better relating to colleagues, employees, and clients; and enhance team performance through constructive feedback, conflict resolution, and providing praise and acknowledgement when it’s due. They also lead by example – ensuring these positive behaviours start from the top; fostering a collaborative, supportive workplace.

Employees led by such managers thus feel more valued, respected, and engaged in their work – sparking greater productivity and job satisfaction. They additionally feel more motivated in their projects and are each given a voice in an environment of open communication. As a result, both an emotionally intelligent leader and their team are able to maintain a positive company culture, one that builds stronger relationships and values productive social interactions. 

As written in their book, Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust; Edgar H. Schein and Peter A. Schein state that a “truly successful leadership thrives in a group culture of high openness and high trust.” 

Furthermore, Gallup statistics show that those with high-EI leaders were four times less likely to leave their job than those who had leaders of low EI.

2. It creates adaptive leaders.

A key component of emotional intelligence is the ability to adapt quickly and strategically. 

In the fast-paced, modern world of business, competition is at a constant high with continuous waves of innovation and development. To remain a relevant, progressive company, leaders must learn to embrace necessary change and move alongside new trends and practices. In fact, the World Economic Forum ranks critical thinking and creativity – two skills directly linked to adaptability – as two of the top three mandatory skills for 2020

Emotional intelligence measures one’s ability to think critically; to assess, rationalise, and process information quickly and accurately. High EI thus lends to adaptive decision-making and problem-solving among effective leaders, leading to operational efficiency, company progress, and support of resilient, growth mindsets

Such skills can fortunately be learned, with emotional strategies to help further one’s adaptability. Leaders are encouraged to develop a positive view of change by identifying their source(s) of resistance, questioning their emotional responses, developing an awareness of any negative attitudes and inhibitions, and finally – crafting a more positive, open-minded outlook to their opportunity for change. 

Reports show that of the companies listed in the Fortune 500 in 1955, only 61 (or 12%) remained in 2014. The plummet of the other 88% can be attributed to bankruptcy or mergers – though Forbes states that a prime reason was the inability to evolve with the times. 

In a rapid landscape of constant competition, having the emotional intelligence to adapt is thus critical to keeping one’s business afloat.

3. It fosters self-awareness and self-regulation.

emotions concept

Emotionally-intelligent leaders have a solid understanding of their emotions, their actions, and how they affect others around them. It provides them with an adequate sense of humility, and thus, a clear view of their strengths and weaknesses. 

Being well-aware of one’s limitations can help leaders focus on skill areas for improvement; along with being better at delegating tasks and recruiting talents to help alleviate skills gaps. 

Experts advise leaders to request honest feedback from their employees, helping bring to light any positive notes or problem areas in their management and communication styles. It can also be beneficial to keep a journal for self-reflection, allowing one to maintain a high degree of self-awareness

Additionally, emotional intelligence helps in regulating one’s feelings; ensuring they take time to examine, control, and produce the appropriate emotional responses. This prevents impulsive reactions that may result in damaged relationships, rapport, or reputation – and helps a leader stay calm in times of stress and crisis. 

By staying in control and keeping to their values, emotionally intelligent leaders can find more productive ways of tackling challenges and resolving conflict – while maintaining the respect of their colleagues and employees. A level-headed, positive outlook is also contagious; boosting team morale and reaping productive results even during tough times. 

To improve one’s emotional self-regulation, leaders are advised to take a “20-second pause” before responding to a critical situation. This engages the “thinking” rather than “emotional” counterpart of your brain, helping you make more effective decisions. 

4. It fosters self-motivation.

Finally – with prominent traits of self-awareness and emotional management, high-EI leaders are able to motivate and lead themselves towards continuous improvement and success.

They typically have high standards of quality for the work they do, and pursue their goals for self-development and self-gratification; rather than praise, money, or superficial titles. They avoid letting past mistakes hinder them – instead, they see such “failures” as valuable lessons, using them as stepping stones towards growth. 

Emotionally strong and intelligent leaders will constantly challenge themselves, work to overcome obstacles and pick themselves up when things go awry. They stay optimistic and in-control, keeping their workers efficient, innovative, and adaptive in turn. The unforgiving, ever-competitive world of business requires such leaders, those who can leverage their available skills in producing quality results - whether in good or bad circumstances. 

Motivation can be improved through a regular examination of your goals and career values. Take time to remember why you love your job, pinpointing any problem areas that need addressing. Be sure to monitor and refresh your objectives as needed, and congratulate yourself for past achievements. 

Above all, it helps to maintain a positive perspective – even in the face of negativity. Chances are, there’s always something positive in every unexpected challenge, issue, or “failure”; focusing on these can help shape a mindset bent on success, rather than defeat. 

Sharpen your leadership skills today!

Emotional intelligence can lead to more productive, motivating, and collaborative methods of leading employees and managing business operations. To further your skills in leadership and management, Upskilled offers both a BSB42015 - Certificate IV in Leadership and Management and BSB51918 - Diploma in Leadership and Management

Those who undertake the certificate course will explore the fundamental methods of creating effective workplace relationships, fostering open communication, implementing customer service strategies, among other business needs. Students who pursue the diploma course can develop and use emotional intelligence, learn risk management, manage recruitment and induction procedures – and other managerial tasks. 

Best of all, these courses are nationally-recognised and delivered 100% online – helping you study according to your personal needs and schedule. 

Be the great leader your workplace deserves – and enquire with the Upskilled team on a course today. 
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