Emotional intelligence is an often misinterpreted term. Some people think it is just a theoretical concept, while others reckon it is just a fancy term for common sense.
There are many more misconceptions, but the fact of the matter is that to be a good leader, emotional intelligence is paramount.
Don’t believe me? As per an article on Harvard Business Review – Emotional intelligence has become an key leadership skill.
Firstly, let’s understand what is Emotional intelligence (EI).
According to Howard Gardner, your Emotional Quotient is the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them.
As a leader, you obviously have to work with others and if you lack EQ, you will find it hard to handle them and get the best out of them. If you think you have a low EQ, worry not. EQ can actually be improved, provided you make a conscious effort to do so.
Here are a few tips for leaders to help boost their emotional intelligence:
1) Learn to handle stress more effectively
Leaders will often face stressful situations. If you let it get you, it will have an adverse effect on how you manage and interact with your teammates, often resulting in a toxic work environment.
Tips to manage stress better:
- Take a break – go out for a walk and take that time to clear your head. Then, reflect on what happened, pay attention to your thoughts, and come up with a plan of action to deal with it.
- Pour some cold water over your face – proven way to reduce stress.
- Don’t get defensive and start justifying your decisions.
- Refrain from blaming or finger-pointing immediately.
- Instead of thinking about the problem as a whole, break it down into small pieces. Then, try to address it one by one.
- Stop being self-critical.
- Don’t let negative emotions to pile up.
2) Learn to put yourself in others’ shoes
Empathy is a critical aspect of emotional intelligence. Lack of it makes communication harder, something a leader can’t afford. Everything from your tone to the words used could end up being inappropriate or getting misinterpreted.
Tips to help you develop empathy:
- Keep asking yourself what this person might be feeling, and adjust your communication accordingly. If you think a teammate is demotivated, try to understand what could be the reason behind it, and then adjust your communications accordingly.
- Maintain a journal to record how your teammates are responding to your communications.
- Learn more about body language and nonverbal communication.
- Encourage your teammates to share their work-related problems with you.
- Along with the perception of the individual employees, you should be in touch with the group perception as well.
- You should be able to anticipate their reactions and respond effectively.
3) Work on your relationship skills
As a leader, you will have to cooperate with your teammates, investors, customers, etc on a regular basis. Empathy alone is not enough for this, developing a good rapport with them is also very essential.
Ways to improve relationship skills:
- Make a conscious effort to build a personal relationship with these stakeholders. Ask if their personal lives are going well.
- You can share your problems too, especially teammates – good way to let them know you are human.
- Strike up conversations on mutual areas of interest.
- Be consistent and fair, and make sure to deliver on your promises.
- Give a platform for your teammates and customers to get their voices heard.
- If you have committed a mistake, be humble enough to acknowledge it.
- Make sure you acknowledge your teammates for their contributions.
- If you say ‘No’ to something, make sure you provide a valid reason for it.
- Learn how to deal with angry customers.
4) Stay connected to your purpose
When leaders lose sight of their goals, they tend to lose their drive. The end results – indifference, giving up rather easily, wasting time on unnecessary and unproductive pursuits.
Emotionally intelligent people never fail to see the bigger picture. That is what drives them even in the face of adversities. So, as a leader, it is crucial that you stay connected to your goals.
Here are a few tips to help you stay connected to your purpose:
- Keep a journal, and record the progress you have made each day.
- Before every major decision, think about how it will contribute to the end goals.
- Make sure you and your teammates are working towards the same goals.
- Be realistic – if your teammates are not rising up to your unrealistic expectations, it could also lead to disharmony and exhaustion.
- Give due consideration for the opinions of your customers, teammates.
- Don’t be afraid to review and adjust your goals.
- Don’t be afraid to say ‘No’ when it is against the values you stand for.
As a business leader, you will have to interact and manage a lot of people – customers, employees, investors, the press, competitors, government, etc. on a regular basis.
They all come from different backgrounds, their motivations and mentality will be different too. To deal with all this with a sane mind, you need to be emotionally intelligent.