When asked to identify the necessary traits for leaders, most would propose answers that fall within a wide range of topics. Charisma, purpose, determination – these are just a few of the traits that are typically used to define leaders who have created successful teams and business ventures. However, many great leaders have a single quality in common. In short, what distinguishes the best leaders from the majority is their level of emotional intelligence. In essence, it refers to the ability to identify, understand and manage both your emotions and the emotions of others.
Dan Goleman popularised the term in 1996 when his book, Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence, broke out on The New York Times bestseller list and spread to publications in 40 languages around the world. There are five components to emotional intelligence as defined by Goleman. These include self-awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, empathy and social skills, all of which play crucial components in successful leadership skills.
A leader with self-awareness understands their emotions in the present moment, not weeks later when realisation dawns why they behaved a certain way. They see what emotions are driving their behaviour and how such emotions are affecting others in their environment. They understand the contagious nature of emotions and strive to maintain theirs in a constructive and inspiring tone. Many experts now believe that a person’s emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) may be more important than their IQ and is certainly a better predictor of success, quality of relationships, and overall happiness. Research performed by Daniel Goleman showed a definitive link between an executive’s emotional self-awareness and empathy and their financial performance. The bottom line: leader’s that lead with self-awareness are consciously aware of their emotions and how they are affecting their team and use this knowledge to inspire and motivate, creating calm instead of chaos.
A leader who understands and can accomplish self-regulation can recognise and rechannel emotions such as anger or rage. Uncertainty doesn’t lead to inaction. It is channeled into constructive action that results in confidence. Fear doesn’t keep them from performing in areas that bring out a cold sweat, it inspires them to do what they fear the most, whether public speaking or rock climbing. And those in their environment learn by observing to “feel the fear and do it anyway,” a phrase coined by Susan Jeffers in her self-help book by the same name. Anger does not result in yelling and screaming but in positive action that resolves the issue. Leaders who have mastered this aspect of EI hold themselves accountable and no longer partake in the blame game.
Leaders who are self-motivated work tirelessly toward their goals and do not need exterior praise or cattle prods to activate their drive. They have high standards not only for their team but for themselves as well. Those who work under their management see a person who actively achieves their purpose and drives them forward as well. Their optimism is contagious.
This is one of the most important EI components for those that wish to succeed in their chosen leadership roles. [pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Leaders who are empathetic understand what others in their organisation are going through and it is this understanding that defines their actions and their words. [/pullquote]
They listen to their team. They realise that up to 90 percent of communication involves that which is unspoken such as body language and tone of voice and they respond to these clues as well as to the spoken word. A leader with this skill sees a team member with their arms crossed and their brow furrowed as they discuss a project and, instead of ignoring these cues, ask them what is bothering them about the project or what suggestions they may have. A leader with empathy creates loyal and engaged team members.
This includes skills such as team building, persuasiveness, building networks and building rapport. It requires direct and honest communication and leads to the ability to excite and motivate. A leader with social skills will also exhibit ease with conflict resolution. They train those that need assistance getting to the next level or thriving in their current one, and they complement those that do good work.
Understanding the basic fundamentals of emotional intelligence can help you thrive as a leader. It helps you manage, motivates and inspire. You understand how your emotions affect others and how you can use them to take correct action and solve existing problems. You identify, understand and manage your emotions. And your understanding extends to your team’s feelings as well.