Emotional Intelligence for Workplace Leaders

By: Sudhir Dhar, Director – Group CHRO, Motilal Oswal

Emotional Intelligence is a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own intelligence related to emotions and also respect other people’s emotions and use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict. Emotional intelligence impacts many different aspects of your daily life, such as the way you behave and the way you interact with others.

Importance of EI in organizations
All matured organizations today are embarking or have already been on a journey to make themselves more emotionally intelligent as it has been seen that an organization’s collective EI has an impact on the bottom-line. One of the strongest arguments for the economic advantage of EI in organizations is given by Jac Fitz-Enz, who is known for his extensive work on “the human asset concept” and “human capital ROI”. He has analysed a data of about 600 organizations, including quite a few in India, selected for profitability and other proxies of performance. He identified similar/common key practices in managing people. These are similar with the emotional competencies that symbolize top-performing professionals and thus concluded that EI is a significant factor contributing to their performance.

Building EI in organizations
EI can definitely be developed. However, the L&D practices at most organizations are not prepared for it. It requires an engagement of our emotional habits. Changing habits such as learning to approach people positively instead of avoiding them, to listen better, or to give feedback skillfully, is a more challenging task than just adding information.

Motivational factors also make it more difficult and complex than cognitive learning. It often involves ways of thinking and acting that are more central to an individual’s identity. The prospect of needing to develop greater emotional competence is not easy for us to take. Thus, it is more likely to generate resistance to change.

A systematic and committed approach is necessary to build emotionally competent organizations. A strategic cycle of assessment – learning – practice – feedback over time will enable organizational members to build competencies that can help develop high performing leaders for the organization.

According to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist who helped popularize EI, there are five main elements of emotional intelligence:

Self-awareness
Self-regulation
Motivation
Empathy
Social skills

The more that you, as a leader, manage each of these areas, the higher your emotional intelligence goes.

1. Self-awareness
If you’re self-aware, you always know how you feel, and you know how your emotions and your actions can affect the people around you. Being self-aware when you’re in a leadership position also means having a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses, and it means behaving with humility.

So, what can you do to improve your self-awareness?

Keep a journal – Journals help you improve your self-awareness. If you spend just a few minutes each day writing down your thoughts, this can move you to a higher degree of self-awareness.
Slow down – When you experience anger or other strong emotions, slow down to examine why. Remember, no matter what the situation, you can always choose how you react to it. (Our article on Managing Your Emotions at Work will help you understand what your emotions are telling you)

2. Self-regulation
Leaders who regulate themselves effectively rarely verbally attack others, make rushed or emotional decisions, stereotype people, or compromise their values. Self-regulation is all about staying in control.

This element of emotional intelligence, according to Goleman, also covers a leader’s flexibility and commitment to personal accountability.

So, how can you improve your ability to self-regulate?

Know your values
Hold yourself accountable
Practice being calm

3. Motivation
Self-motivated leaders work consistently toward their goals, and they have extremely high standards for the quality of their work.

How can you improve your motivation?

Re-examine why you’re doing your job
Know where you stand – Determine how motivated you are to lead.
Be hopeful and find something good – Motivated leaders are usually optimistic, no matter what problems they face. Adopting this mindset might take practice, but it’s well worth the effort.

4. Empathy
For leaders, having empathy is critical to managing a successful team or organization. Leaders with empathy have the ability to put themselves in someone else’s situation. They help develop the people on their team, challenge others who are acting unfairly, give constructive feedback, and listen to those who need it.

If you want to earn the respect and loyalty of your team, then show them you care by being empathic.

How can you improve your empathy?

Put yourself in someone else’s position
Pay attention to body language
Respond to feelings – You ask your assistant to work late – again. And although he agrees, you can hear the disappointment in his voice. So, respond by addressing his feelings. Tell him you appreciate how willing he is to work extra hours, and that you’re just as frustrated about working late. If possible, figure out a way for future late nights to be less of an issue (for example, give him Monday mornings off).

5. Social skills
Leaders who do well in the social skills element of emotional intelligence are great communicators. They’re just as open to hearing bad news as good news, and they’re expert at getting their team to support them and be excited about a new mission or project.

Leaders who have good social skills are also good at managing change and resolving conflicts diplomatically. They’re rarely satisfied with leaving things as they are, but they don’t sit back and make everyone else do the work: They set an example with their own behavior.

So, how can you build social skills?

Learn conflict resolution – Leaders must know how to resolve conflicts between their team members, customers and vendors. Learning conflict resolution skills is vital if you want to succeed.
Improve your communication skills – How well do you communicate
Learn how to praise others – As a leader, you can inspire the loyalty of your team simply by giving praise when it’s earned. Learning how to praise others is a fine art, but it pays.

To be effective, leaders must have a solid understanding of how their emotions and actions affect the people around them. The better a leader relates to and works with others, the more successful he or she will be. Take the time to work on self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Working on these areas will help you excel in the future!

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