Develop your emotional intelligence with James Manktelow
and Amy Carlson.
When you think of a "perfect leader," what comes to mind?
You might picture someone who never lets his temper get out of control, no matter what problems he's facing. Or you might think of someone who has the complete trust of her staff, listens to her team, is easy to talk to, and always makes careful, informed decisions.
These are qualities of someone with a high degree of emotional intelligence .
In this article, we'll look at why emotional intelligence is so important for leaders – and how you, as a leader, can improve yours.
Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence know what they're feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people.
For leaders, having emotional intelligence is essential for success. After all, who is more likely to succeed – a leader who shouts at his team when he's under stress, or a leader who stay in control, and calmly assesses the situation?
According to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist who helped to popularize EI, there are five main elements of emotional intelligence:
The more that you, as a leader, manage each of these areas, the higher your emotional intelligence. So, let's look at each element in more detail and examine how you can grow as a leader.
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?
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?
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 – It's easy to forget what you really love about your career. So, take some time to remember why you wanted this job. If you're unhappy in your role and you're struggling to remember why you wanted it, try the Five Whys technique to find the root of the problem. Starting at the root often helps you look at your situation in a new way.
And make sure that your goal statements are fresh and energizing. For more on this, see our article on Goal Setting .
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.
Every time you face a challenge, or even a failure, try to find at least one good thing about the situation. It might be something small, like a new contact, or something with long-term effects, like an important lesson learned. But there's almost always something positive, if you look for it.
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?
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?
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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