Emotional intelligence (EQi) isn’t just a buzzword. It’s gotten lots of attention over the past several years—as businesses increasingly value intangibles like employee engagement and company culture in addition to the bottom line—but the concept of EQi has been around for nearly three decades.
When you’ve developed your EQi, you not only strengthen your interpersonal relationships, you also make better decisions, communicate more effectively and problem-solve more diplomatically. Those sound a lot like the actions of a strong leader, don’t they?
The importance of emotional intelligence training in today’s world is irrefutable. Luckily, EQi can be learned (just like leadership skills). One way to build your EQi is to assess your performance in terms of the five components of emotional intelligence. Each component is further broken down into three skills or traits, which very clearly express the role of emotional intelligence in leadership.
Self-Perception: How Do You See Yourself?
If you’ve ever noticed how someone’s bad mood can “rub off” on you, you have an understanding of why self-perception is an important component of EQi. How you view yourself and your circumstances affects how you view and interact with others. A leader must be acutely aware of what he or she is feeling and how those feelings—expressed in moods and actions—affect those around you. Self-perception includes these three traits:
- Someone with high EQi has a well-defined sense of self-regard. This person knows “who they are” and has the ability to objectively evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses
- Self-actualization is the ability to realize your own potential by achieving personal goals and self-improvement. If you do this well, you’re likely to inspire the same in others
- When you practice emotional self-awareness, you can effectively recognize and control your emotions and how you react to other people and situations
Self-Expression: Who Are You, Really?
The ability to appropriately express your emotions is a key part of leadership. Why? When you clearly express how and what you’re feeling (in a constructive way), it makes it easy for others to build trust in you. Secure relationships leave no room for guessing games. Self-expression includes these three traits:
- Emotional expression is how accurately you communicate your emotions to those around you. A leader must be able to express their emotions to the right people, at the right times and in just the right amounts
- When you are upfront (in a positive manner) with others about your thoughts, feelings and views, you are practicing assertiveness
- In the work environment, you must strike a balance between independence—the ability to self-motivate and work on your own—and interdependence—the ability to work well as part of a team
Interpersonal Skills: How Do You Interact with Others?
Strong interpersonal skills help you build relationships. And when you understand others’ emotions and react to them appropriately, you’ll strengthen those relationships. Leaders with strong interpersonal skills are able to better motivate others, more easily gain support for their initiatives and resolve conflicts fairly. There are three key areas of interpersonal skills as they relate to EQi:
- When you exhibit social responsibility, you carefully consider your impact on those people in your immediate environment, as well as the world at large
- Effective leaders have empathy—the ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, see things from their perspective and address their feelings so that they feel “heard”
- Leaders must be able to build meaningful and mutually beneficial interpersonal relationships. Emotional intelligence training can help them do that
Decision Making: What’s Guiding You?
When you understand your emotions and where they come from, you’ll make better decisions. Leaders with high EQi know when to listen to their emotions versus letting emotions cloud their vision. Bias and assumptions have little place in clear decision-making, and well-developed EQi allows you to pinpoint when your emotions conflict with reality. Below, three skills involved in decision-making:
- Spur-of-the-moment decision-making is usually based on strong emotions. Practicing impulse control ensures you use the right amounts of planning and forethought when decision-making
- Emotions can skew your perspective. Reality testing ensures you objectively understand the people and situations around you, and adapt your behavior accordingly
- The most difficult problems to solve are often those where emotions are involved. Well-developed EQi helps you apply a more measured, considered approach to problem solving, leading to more effective solutions
Stress Management: How Are You Coping?
People with high EQi tend to handle stress much better than those with undeveloped EQi. Emotional intelligence helps you navigate conflict, practice grace under pressure and dwell less on negative thoughts and feelings. That’s because EQi allows you to more objectively assess a set of circumstances rather than relying on emotional reactions. Three traits of stress management in relation to emotional intelligence include:
- Flexibility—successful leaders know how to “go with the flow” instead of needlessly fighting it. They are able to discern the unvarnished truth, with allows them to quickly formulate solutions—and pivot to new ones, if needed
- Stress Tolerance—emotional intelligence helps you get comfortable with stress. For example, reframing a negative outcome as a learning opportunity and avoiding an excessive emotional response
- Optimism—just like negativity—is infectious. When leaders are optimistic, they inspire more confidence and trust from direct reports. They become a more creative, better problem-solver. And they become a beacon of light during periods of adversity
Leadership is influence. And successful leaders influence employees’, direct reports’ and colleagues’ behaviors in ways that are more likely to accomplish personal and organizational goals and benefit the organization and its people overall. Emotional intelligence is a significant factor in a leader’s ability to do that.
But emotional intelligence doesn’t come on its own. Developing EQi requires a thorough understanding of its components and how they work together, a commitment to improvement and consistent practice. Emotional intelligence training helps enormously with those requirements, and in today’s world, is a must-have for organizations of all shapes and sizes.