Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

Emotional Intelligence and LeadershipYou know that person in your office? The one who always says the right thing and who can “sense” the mood and feelings in any group of people? The one who can take that knowledge and build strong, effective teams? That’s emotional intelligence. Like mental acuity, it includes both innate and learned behaviors.

Psychology Today defines emotional intelligence as “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.” Emotional intelligence is not simply empathy and feelings; it is using those traits to build stronger relationships and more effective leadership skills. In today’s organizations, it is not sufficient to have only the technical skills for success. Increasingly, success is based on collaboration and teamwork that, in turn, require enhanced ability to understand and respond to emotions and group interactions.

The Harvard Business Review reports that emotional intelligence contains four domains: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. As with any skill set, it is the balance of these competencies that bring the greatest success.

Self-awareness is the starting point. You know you are smart— you have educational and organizational attainment to prove it. Your emotional self-awareness may be harder to initially understand, but perhaps the easiest to assess. You may have taken formal and informal assessments of emotional and leadership styles over the years. These provide a baseline of your emotional intelligence tendencies, and what you may need to work on. External feedback is extremely helpful, although sometimes painful to hear. Don’t be afraid to ask!

Self-management moves beyond knowing your strengths to using them in your organization. Learning to control your own reactivity allows you to address tough topics or critical situations. Then, you can adapt your tactics to respond to rapidly changing environments and common goals.

Social awareness is the application of empathy to your organization’s environment. Your skill in “reading” the emotional temperature both individually and collectively helps you identify trouble spots with objectivity and repair breakdowns in group dynamics.

Relationship management is the most complex of the emotional intelligence domains. These are the competencies that integrate all the previous skills to influence group behaviors, manage open or under-the-radar conflict, and provide inspirational leadership that empowers team effectiveness.

Like any other set of skills, there can be pitfalls that develop from uneven development in the four domains. If, for example, you are too focused on sensitivity and likeability, you might lack the courage to ruffle feathers when necessary. The good news is that the information needed to balance your emotional intelligence abilities is out there. Find someone who does this really well and ask for mentoring or coaching. There are a wide variety of books and journal articles available that incorporate emotional intelligence research. If you are an organizational leader, consider using this as a team development project. The Singer Group can provide the expertise to lead your team in the development of skills in all four domains, along with follow-up assessments to ensure that skills are maintained and used.

You can’t underestimate the power of using balanced emotional intelligence skills to enhance your performance. Ongoing feedback and awareness are vital. You may remember that former New York City Mayor Ed Koch famously stood in the subways and on the streets of his city, asking his constituents “how’m I doin’?” – it worked for him, and it is a great place to start.

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