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The Importance of Emotional Intelligence for Effective Leadership

Emotional Intelligence is the fulcrum of your personal and professional achievements. Often considered secondary to knowledge and technical skills, emotional intelligence, in reality, is what differentiates a good leader from an excellent one. Strange as it might sound, the ability to understand our personal feelings and emotions is a rare quality. Leading other people to achieve great results becomes a distant dream when you are unaware of your own emotional triggers and strengths. An effective leader must know the impact his words, actions and behavior have on his team and on the people around him in general; only then can he act in an exemplary manner. Emotional Intelligence provides you with that awareness.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Simply put, emotional intelligence is the ability to be fully aware of your own emotions which in turn equips you to better understand others’ emotions. A person with high emotional intelligence has an inherent knowledge of emotions and can respond positively to it irrespective of the demands of the situation. Conducting oneself gracefully in stressful situations, providing guidance and leadership even in chaos while remaining faithful to one’s core nature are some of the signs of an emotionally aware individual.

Why Is Emotional Intelligence Essential For a Leader?

Many leadership theories advocate the idea that a leader needs to be professional and must not allow any scope for emotions in his dealings with his team. This is extremely detrimental as it is impossible and unhealthy to sweep our feelings under the rug. A leader needs to be at peace with his inner feelings to be able to shoulder and channelize the emotions of his team to a positive end. Emotional intelligence also makes a leader a better communicator who can solve problems without being judgemental. Most importantly, awareness of emotions allows a leader to never react in an undesirable manner under provocation or stress. Employees tend to feel more secure and valued under a leader who never lets his emotions get the better of him.

Key Factors of Emotional Intelligence

Your emotional intelligence is dependent on a bevy of elements that can be enhanced to become an effective leader. These aspects include –

  1. Self-Awareness – An understanding of your core strengths and weaknesses will help you not just in leadership but in every aspect of life. Just as it is important to be confident in your abilities, a leader must also possess humility in order to function. Being aware of yourself also means that you understand your emotional triggers and can regulate your behavior in stressful conditions.

The emotional side of the brain or Amygdala and the cognitive side or Neocortex are engaged in a constant struggle for power. In a pleasant environment, the human brain can process multiple roles and communications at once. However, once the amygdala gains control of our mind, this ability drops by 75 percent reducing us to view the world in term of fixed binaries. As a result, we tend to get offended, read too much into people’s words and start giving in to despair.

  1. Reflection and Regulation – A leader must always reflect on his actions and the results it produced. Based on those results modifications need to be made in the thought process and behavior. A leader who is high on emotional intelligence almost never loses his cool and is calm by nature. This is simply because he knows a better way than to react aggressively or become verbally abusive. Self-regulation allows a leader to focus on the solution rather than express dissatisfaction about an issue at hand.
  2. Purposeful Communication – Effective Communication is the hallmark of a team’s success. A leader needs to set clear goals and objectives in order to enable his team to perform optimally. Lack of communication often leads to confusion and frustration which compound to become misunderstandings. Good communication enables each member of a team to understand their purpose as well as the company’s vision.
  3. Empathy – A compassionate attitude can go a long way in retaining an employee and an emotionally intelligent leader not just gives directions but creates room for his team to see him as an emotional anchor in times of need. Instead or ordering an employee to work overtime, explaining why his services are needed additionally makes a world of difference. Responding to your employees’ behavior and actions by putting yourself in their positions makes a leader seem trustworthy and reliable.
  4. Managing Conflict – One of the skills that define a great leader is the ability to resolve conflict harmoniously. In order to do this, a leader should be able to view change as a way of growth. Even a seemingly bad outcome can have positive aspects if only a person has the foresight to look past it.

Conflicts can occur within the team as well. It is for the leader to designate defined roles to every team member to avoid any kind of dissatisfaction or disappointment. Emotional intelligence also provides a leader the ability to remain unbiased.

  1. Social Skills – A leader’s behavior determines the attitude of the entire team. If the leader exhibits politeness, humility, and dignity in his dealing with others, the team is bound to follow suit.

Command over emotional intelligence can help a leader create a positive work environment in which every employee is motivated and inspired to take the team to uncharted heights.

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