There are many theories banded around about what makes leaders successful and the skills needed to become excellent at leadership. Perhaps none is more interesting than that of emotional intelligence. Leaders that are emotionally intelligent are claimed to have greater self-awareness, be better at handling their emotions, using emotions in a productive manner, using empathy to read the emotions of others and managing relationships better. All of these are skills that leaders can benefit from. As Tammy Day, an accredited Emotional Intelligence Practitioner explains:
“Research suggests that emotional intelligence is twice as important as technical skills and IQ in maintain excellent performance and can be the defining factor of great leaders”.
Day goes on to point out that Daniel Goleman who drew attention to emotional intelligence explained that the “ingredients of excellent performance” were 70% emotional intelligence and only 30% IQ. It might be argued then that mastering the skill of emotional intelligence, and building on this can help leaders to increase their effectiveness very considerably and this should be an approach that all leaders consider.
One very interesting application of emotional intelligence is outlined by Day which shows what other companies could do to develop these skills in their leaders. The approach was put in place by Sanofi, a global pharmaceutical company. The individuals were assessed for their emotional intelligence as a part of the programme, and then the programme that was designed for emerging leaders focused on building emotional intelligence skills. One area focused on in particular was improving self-awareness. It was noted that by the end of the programme participants had increased their self-awareness by 50%, while they had also achieved a 60% shift with regard to being aware of other people. In addition to this, 60% demonstrated an improvement in emotional resilience. All of this is clearly useful in becoming more effective at the task of leading.
But what are the factors that really make these leaders more likely to be successful? Writing for Fast Company in 2014, Harvey Deutschendorf points out explains the five aspects of emotional intelligence that that help these types of leaders to be more successful:
Self-awareness – Deutschendorf explains that being aware of the emotions that we have, what sparks them off and how we choose to react to them is a fundamental part of emotional intelligence. Indeed, he explains that leaders that can better manage their own emotions are also better able to respond to and manage the circumstances that they find themselves in. This helps them to be better at thinking on their feet to come up with solutions to the problem. Meanwhile, those that are emotional find that their emotions cloud their ability to be able to do this.
Awareness of others – when leaders are aware of themselves, they will also become more aware of others and the emotions of those other people. This helps emotionally intelligent leaders to be able to better separate themselves from other people’s emotions by not taking them personally and not judging them. Again this leads to more effective problem solving through not reacting.
Listening skills – the art of listening is a skill that many people never learn. Instead of listening and taking on board what the other person has to say they spend a whole conversation thinking about what they are going to say next. Stepping back and really hearing what another person is saying helps the emotionally intelligent leader to review the emotions that sit behind the comments that the person is making. There is more to hearing than just focusing on the words. This helps these leaders to be able to better connect to their employees,
Awareness of emotional atmosphere – as explained by Deutschendorf leaders that are good at emotional intelligence are able to sense what is occurring emotionally when conversations happen. They are also able to sense how the whole working environment feels. They are “tuned in” and this helps them to be able to better understand what is going on with people and teams and why. This leads to team members really having a much greater belief that their leaders understand them, which in turn generates trust and loyalty.
Anticipate reactions and respond effectively – of course, all of this leads emotionally intelligent leaders to be able to better react to situations before real damage is done. They can deal with problems up front, and especially dangerous rumours, and this enables them to assist employees through times of change that can be more challenging.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.