By the time we hit the workforce, we already tend to have a ‘programmed reaction’ to certain stimulus. We may lash out when we feel stressed or criticised, or we might bottle up emotions at work rather than dealing with them calmly at the time.
We’ve learnt these reactions through our own life experiences and personality traits, and they tend to reveal themselves in pressure situations when emotions are high. As we move up the career ladder, we find ourselves in pressure situations more often, and thus often find it difficult to control our reactions and understand the emotions of those around us.
Yet the best leaders don’t lose their tempers or retreat into silence when they’re under pressure.
They have a keen understanding of what makes people ‘tick’, and seem to be able to get the right results out of their team. These people have a strong level of Emotional Intelligence, or EI.
What’s Emotional Intelligence?
Put simply Emotional Intelligence is about how well you can interpret emotions- both your own and the emotions of those around you. Using this knowledge, you can then react calmly when under pressure, and in a manner that creates positive results.
A high level of Emotional intelligence also requires that you understand how your emotions affect other people’s emotions- which is particularly important if you are a leader hoping to inspire and encourage.
Are there different types of EI?
According to American psychologist Daniel Goldman, there are 5 types of Emotional Intelligence:
- Social skills.
Each one is a powerful building block in your leadership ability.
How can I grow my Emotional Intelligence?
Study yourself: Without self-awareness, it is impossible to show emotional intelligence. So start taking notice of your moods, how you react to stress, and how other people react to you when you are in different moods.
Be as dispassionate as possible- don’t beat yourself up or try to change everything about yourself in a day. Just start observing yourself calmly: writing your observations in a journal can be an excellent way to keep track of your emotions.
Assess: With a new awareness must come a new course of action. Emotional Intelligence requires that you remain in control of these emotions that you have begun noticing.
Whenever you feel your emotions rising, stop, take a deep breath and assess:
- Are you jumping to conclusions through emotions?
- Are you over-reacting with old patterns of knee-jerk reactions?
- Do you need to accept any responsibility for what has occurred?
Once you’ve assessed the situation calmly, you can proceed.
Be aware of body language:
It’s very useful to learn more about body language for the purpose of understanding how people are truly reacting to what you’re saying; but it’s even more important that you’re in control of your own to avoid sending the wrong messages.
As a leader, it’s difficult to display emotional intelligence if you’re not motivated yourself. Remind yourself why you do your job, and find the positive in situations when faced with challenges. When you have these things firmly centred in your mind, you’ll find you can rise above problems without indulging in old behaviour patterns of anger, avoidance or even resentment.
Put yourself in the other person’s position:
This is where good leaders become great. In order to manage your team well, you need to put some real thought into their point of view. Without developing this empathy, you’ll often find that your requests and initiatives are met with less enthusiasm than you expect.
For example, that financial incentive to finish a project might be worth it to you personally because you’re buying a house, but for the parents in the team or those with other priorities it may be deeply inconvenient or even upsetting. In order to lead your team to success, you have to give real thought to other people’s emotions, and frame requests in an understanding and sympathetic manner.
Learn conflict resolution skills:
As a leader, the importance of being able to deal with conflict calmly and effectively simply cannot be overstated. All of the preceding points will help you towards this, but there are many resources out there to help you develop these crucial skills.
Finally, it’s extremely important to lead by example, and praise people regularly along the way. By showing that you’re all in it together and appreciate all their hard work, you are displaying the emotional intelligence you require to become a truly great leader.
Until next time