What springs to mind when you think of good leadership? Common responses are “visionary”, “great communicator” and “able to engage people”, among others. However, following extensive research into great leadership, many business people and academics now believe that emotional intelligence is fundamental to success in this area. But what does the term “emotional intelligence” mean? Well, the dictionary definition of emotional intelligence goes part way towards describing it, and is:
“The capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically”.
While this definition helps, it does not go all the way in explaining what emotional intelligence really is and what it embodies. Emotional intelligence is fundamentally the capability of being able to manage your emotions, and to be able to understand the emotions of those around you and react appropriately to get better results from people. When people understand their own emotions they have a good appreciation of how their behaviour might impact on their employees.
It is thought that there are a number of different factors in good emotional intelligence. These are considered to be empathy, social skills, motivation, self-awareness and self-regulation. Social skills are helpful in emotional intelligence for dealing with conflict and change. Meanwhile, empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand their perception. Others need to know that you understand their points even if you do not agree with them. Understanding body language and cues can help with achieving this. Motivation comes mostly from the inside, and understanding what motivates you is helpful in managing your emotions effectively. Improving motivation means really delving deep inside yourself and understanding what makes you tick and what you want from life.Five Components of Emotional Intelligence Intelligenthq
It is very difficult for a leader to be emotionally intelligent without motivation. Self-awareness is built up over time, but can be enhanced by taking on the feedback of others, as well as reflective behaviour that helps you to understand why you acted in certain ways in specific situations. Understanding the root of your emotions can help you to better address them and take control of them. On the other hand, self-regulation requires an understanding of your personal values, as this can help you to better understand certain reactions.
Putting emotional intelligence into practice can be harder than it might at first seem, and this is the subject of a recent blog post by Susan David (2014) on the Harvard Business Review blog. One confusion that Susan explains can sometimes happen is that emotions are supressed – when this happens they build up inside. Indeed, Susan David argues that:
“Supressing your emotions is associated with poor memory, difficulties in relationships and physiological costs… Emotions matter”.
At the same time, shouting at people is also unacceptable. This is termed by some as “emotional leakage”, and is likely to occur as a result of personal frustration. This is all the more likely to occur if feelings get bottled up, argues Susan David.
On a very practical level, Susan David recommends several specific steps to take when leaders are faced with difficult situations where conflict may occur. The first is to consider the emotions tied up in the situation. As a leader dealing with a person that is underperforming, for example, it is important to realise that this person might feel threatened, scared and defensive. Being ready for these emotions helps leaders to be able to deal with them more effectively. Body language and facial expressions can give a lot of this away if a person is being cagey about their feelings on a subject matter. Meanwhile, the second step is understanding your own emotions, and harness the positive emotions when dealing with a situation of conflict. In particular, starting off on a positive note can help the other person or people to relax a bit more and discuss the issues more effectively as they become less defensive.Four strategies to solve conflicts Intelligenthq
Better understanding why a situation is happening is Susan David’s third step, and this requires the asking of open questions like, “How do you feel about X?” and “Why does that happen?” The final step requires working together with both viewpoints in mind and coming up with a plan that solves problems. When taking these steps, better leadership outcomes can be achieved.
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.