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The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership




Emotional intelligence (EQ) has gained significant attention in recent years, particularly within the business community. This is due to the fact that strong leadership is vital to the success of any organization, and emotional intelligence plays a crucial role in effective leadership.


Research suggests that individuals with high levels of emotional intelligence often outperform their peers. Therefore, it is essential for business professionals to possess a high EQ in order to thrive in the modern business landscape.


High emotional intelligence is essential for good leadership since it directly affects employee relationship management. EQ in leadership improves self-awareness, accountability, communication, and employee relationships because it helps leaders process emotions more positively and address challenges more efficiently. 


While technical skills are usually prioritized first and are definitely important if one aspires for more in their career and to be a successful leader, soft skills like emotional intelligence are necessary. Effective leadership still does require authority as well as technical and analytical skills, but those must be intertwined with emotional intelligence and the ability to put employees and their needs first. 


In this article, we’ll explore emotional intelligence and why it’s important for leaders who want to lead their teams better and create an engaging and positive work environment. 


What is Emotional Intelligence? 

Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the ability to recognize and influence the feelings of others. It allows people to communicate better, empathize with others on a deeper level, manage relationships better, and overcome challenges more efficiently and positively. When leaders recognize and understand their own emotions and how they affect other people, they can utilize their emotions appropriately to influence positive outcomes within the workplace. 


The term emotional intelligence was first coined in 1990 by researchers John Mayer and Peter Salovey and was later popularized by Daniel Goleman. It’s considered an excellent parameter to check a leadership style’s effectiveness. Experts believe IQ, technical, and communication skills are irrelevant if a leader lacks emotional intelligence. 


Goleman emphasized the importance of emotional intelligence in leadership by stating, “The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but…they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions.”


Since its popularization, emotional intelligence has evolved into a must-have leadership skill. And companies take notice of potential leaders that do and don’t possess it. According to one survey, 71% of employers said they value emotional intelligence over IQ. Employees and leaders with high EQ are more likely to stay calm under pressure, resolve conflict effectively, and respond to staff with empathy and understanding. 


The Four Components of EQ

Emotional intelligence is often broken down into four key components:

  • Self-awareness

  • Self-management

  • Social awareness

  • Relationship management

It’s important to understand each component to improve emotional intelligence overall.


Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is at the core of emotional intelligence. Self-awareness is the ability to accurately perceive our emotions and stay aware of them as they happen. It also involves a leader’s ability to understand how their feelings affect their own performance and their team’s performance. 


One study found that 95% of people surveyed considered themselves self-aware when, in reality, only 10 to 15% were actually self-aware. A leader who isn’t self-aware can pose a problem for their team and cut into work productivity and success. Low self-awareness can create tension in the workplace and lead to increased stress and decreased motivation. 


To bring out the best in employees, leaders must first bring out the best in themselves through self-awareness. A leader should be able to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, as well as their emotions. That is the first step in improving emotional intelligence. One way to start improving this is by doing 360-degree feedback, where you evaluate your own self and then match it up against the opinions of your co-workers and employees. This process will give you insights into your own behavior and help you discover how your emotions, reactions, and actions affect others in the workplace. 


Self-Management

Self-management is the ability to manage and control your own emotions, especially in stressful or emotionally charged situations. Leaders must be able to control their emotions and maintain a positive attitude despite whatever challenges they face. Leaders who lack self-management tend to be reactive and have a harder time keeping their emotional impulses in check. 


Reactions tend to be automatic. However, having high EQ means being self-aware of one’s automatic reactions and if they’re appropriate for the workplace. Then determine what one desires to accomplish and self-regulate those emotional reactions. The more a leader is in tune with their emotions, the easier it is to transition from reactive to responsive. This is particularly important in stressful or challenging situations, as leaders need to respond to these situations in a calm and appropriate manner. 


Social Awareness

Social awareness involves your ability to empathize with others and understand their emotions. Leaders need to know how to read themselves and read the room. Leaders must understand and recognize employees’ emotions to communicate with others in the workplace. 


Leaders with social awareness demonstrate empathy and prioritize understanding their employees’ feelings and perspectives, ultimately enabling them to communicate and collaborate more effectively. Socially aware and empathetic leaders support their employees’ professional and personal growth and maintain positive workplace morale. 


By being an empathetic leader, you can better support your team while also improving your own individual performance.


Relationship Management

Relationship management is influencing, coaching, and mentoring others to resolve conflict efficiently. It also includes a leader’s ability to keep conflict at bay as much as possible. Most people prefer a company with few internal disputes because it provides a satisfactory workplace. 


While some people prefer to avoid conflict, and sometimes it can be uncomfortable, learning how to manage relationships and resolve conflict is essential for leaders and for improving emotional intelligence. Avoiding conflict or failing to resolve it quickly and efficiently can result in lower work morale, unproductivity, lack of motivation, and more. 


To keep your team happy and productive, you must have tough conversations to resolve and avoid future issues. And not only is relationship management crucial for productivity, but it’s also crucial for retaining talent and happy employees. A survey found that 72% of employees ranked respectful treatment of all employees as a top factor in job satisfaction. 


Why is Emotional Intelligence Important

Emotional intelligence is important for leaders not just because of the impact it has on their leadership skills, their employees, and the overall organization. It also greatly affects the leader and their work on an individual level. Leaders with high emotional intelligence are more self-aware, better at regulating their emotions, reactions, and actions, and are more understanding and empathetic toward employees. A high EQ in the workplace can help leaders manage their stress better, maintain healthy relationships among team members, improve performance, and create more work satisfaction. 


Emotional intelligence among leaders can also benefit the entire workplace and cultivate more EQ for employees so everyone can perform better. 


Benefits of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Leaders who display and nurture high emotional intelligence will become better leaders and can experience many benefits, including:


  • Higher levels of internal awareness to make sound decisions for their career and their organization.

  • Improved self-regulation to control emotions better, decrease emotional reactions, and build a better rapport with employees.

  • Increased empathy to better understand, connect, communicate, and collaborate with employees for more efficient production and achieving organizational goals.

  • Less stress in the workplace for the individual leader and employees as a whole. 

  • Better team engagement and relationship building between leader and employees and fostering relationship building.

  • An improved company culture where everyone feels heard and valued, increasing workplace morale and job satisfaction.

  • Higher performance-driven results when employees feel understood and, as a result, desire to perform better and be more productive, ultimately improving the bottom line


The Bottom Line

Leaders set the tone of their teams and organizations. A huge component of that includes having a high level of emotional intelligence. A lack of emotional intelligence could create long-lasting consequences such as high turnover rates, low productivity, and low performance, which all can affect the bottom line. 


While technical and analytics skills are important to be a successful leader and manage a team, emotional intelligence should be at the top of your priority list. You can improve your leadership skills, influence, performance, and organizational success all by mastering emotional intelligence. Chris Dyer is a company culture expert, international keynote speaker, consultant, and best-selling author. If you’re interested in learning about how Chris can help improve your leadership skills with coaching and support, reach out to get in contact today.

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