Emotional Intelligence — leadership skills for senior executives

More and more research has shown that a high IQ or Intelligence Quotient is not a sole predictor of success in life or business and does not define leadership skills or abilities fully.

As businesses and the world become more interconnected and global, previously successful approaches based on power, hierarchy, and positional authority no longer guarantee success. The need of the hour, in any job or position, is now the ability to work with people of diverse backgrounds and relationships that go beyond organizational structures and power equations.

So what key skills are required for a leader to be successful, beyond knowing the business, having technical smarts, or a high IQ?

Research shows the one big differentiator, especially as you move up to more responsible and powerful positions, is the Emotional Intelligence or Emotional Quotient.

While Emotional Intelligence in workplaces is more commonly discussed now, it’s a field that has been around for centuries with definitions of Multiple Intelligences being around for centuries. In this blog, I have discussed Emotional intelligence skills for leaders, what are the common elements of it, and why are they important?

1. Knowing Yourself

This is the fundamental skill of knowing what makes you, You!! What makes you happy, what motivates you, what makes you excited enough to take that one extra step or action, what switches you off or what triggers your negative emotions and reactions etc. It also includes an understanding of what are your typical beliefs and biases, what is your normal tendency in a situation involving strong emotions — action or withdrawal, what kind of action, or how long does the withdrawal last? Do you have different patterns of behavior in different situations or with different kinds of people?

Knowing oneself allows us to recognize situations and triggers that set us off perhaps in uncontrolled behaviors, also allows us to recognize our emotional response before things get out of control, and allow us the ability to manage our reaction to the situation. Knowing oneself is one of the most important Emotional Intelligence Leadership skills. It is the first step in becoming emotionally intelligent and be productive, happy, and have fulfilling relationships with ourselves and others.

2. Knowing how you affect Others

In each of our interactions with our teams and other stakeholders, our emotional state impacts others, even if we are unaware of what the state or what the effect is. If you are feeling hopeful, your team will feel optimistic and hopeful about the future. If you feel stressed, your team will feel the stress no matter how much you try to hide it. What you say (Or don’t say), how you say it, who you say it in front of are all some of the factors that leave an impact that stays with individuals. Here’s where Emotional Intelligence Leadership skills come into play.

As a leader, knowing oneself and managing oneself in such a manner that our effect on others around us is thought through and managed well, becomes a critical skill. Teams want their leader to be someone they can look up to, even under or especially under situations of stress or pressure, have trust that their leader will continue to function effectively, be able to make the right decisions under complex stressful situations, and provide the required leadership and direction.

So, as a leader, be sensitive to what effect you have on others and channel it well!

3. Have Empathy

Empathy, in very simple terms, is being able to relate to what another person is going through. It doesn’t mean being in another person’s shoes and have the same feelings as the other person, but rather be sensitive to what the other person is experiencing and using that sensitivity in further actions and decisions.

One of the common misunderstandings about being empathetic is — does being empathetic mean I lose the ability to make decisions independently but get swayed by what I feel for the other person? This is one of the most common questions leaders ask. The answer is NO — being empathetic gives you the ability to relate to the other person’s situation so that you consider that (but not let that rule) while making decisions and taking actions. The opposite of being empathetic is being insensitive to other persons’ feelings and situations.

Being empathetic enables you to make the right decision while keeping the people affected under consideration. If the decision affects people negatively, then being empathetic enables you to treat them with sensitivity and do what you can to help ease their pain — while still making and implementing the hard business decisions as the situation may demand. It makes you a Caring Leader as against a Hard leader!

4. Stay Optimistic

Optimism is the ability to stay positive and have faith that a challenging situation can be turned into something positive — no matter how tough. Optimism is key to not giving up in the face of difficulties, but rather being able to take that one first step to deal with the situation or change the situation.

Optimism can sometimes be dismissed as false hope, not in alignment with reality. However, decades of research in psychology indicates that optimism is an emotional intelligence skill that is based on faith in one’s own ability to make things better. Optimism is not a passive expectation of better outcomes but rather the faith in one’s ability gives the impetus to take actions to change the situation and reality.

It is critical for a leader to have optimism and be able to convey optimism to the team, especially under changing and challenging circumstances — which is the constant reality of businesses now.

If a leader gets stressed or overwhelmed by changes or ambiguity and loses optimism, the ability to function productively gets heavily impacted. Also, the feeling of pessimism gets across to the team, adding to their stress and reducing their ability to function productively.

5. Decision Making With Emotions

One of the common skills we learn in management schools is making complex decisions in a very structured manner, using data and information to help us find the right path and right decision. While this is a great skill to have, it has been proven that decisions made ignoring the human factor generally lead to negative results in the long run.

If all decisions could be based on absolute data, humans may not be required to participate in any decision making!

The key is finding the right balance of how much feelings and emotions have to be taken into consideration, over and above the data-based decisions. Using the data indicated path as guidance and weaving in human considerations, based on the previously mentioned emotional skills is what differentiates a great leader from a clinical manager who goes purely by data.

In summary, the key to great leadership is the ability to know and manage one’s emotions, sensitivity to others’ emotions and feelings, and using this information, in addition to the typical management data and tools, to make well-rounded decisions and actions.

If you’d like to know where you and your team stand on emotional intelligence, reach out to Coach Lumen.

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