How to Be Emotionally Intelligent in Leadership

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” ~Daniel Goleman

Emotional intelligence (EQ)  is vital in today’s workplace. And to be an effective leader, EQ is a critical skill set to have. By recognizing and addressing your employees’ emotional needs, as well as your own, you can increase trust, morale, and productivity. Let’s explore leadership qualities and techniques for developing emotional intelligence by looking at a few real-world examples.

Leadership qualities including emotional intelligence

What Leadership Qualities Make a Great Leader?

Certain leadership qualities hold a lot of influence and power. Three vital ones are self-awareness, social awareness, and resiliency. Each one has a life of its own and either makes or breaks leaders! Here we illustrate specific examples at the workplace. We've included real-life challenges and EQ techniques to practice so that you can hit your target of being the authentic leader that you're aiming for!

Become Self Aware and Turn Emotions into Fuel for Change

A former boss of mine used to get short-tempered with our team any time we received negative client feedback. His behavior put everyone on edge, which negatively affected our work—the exact opposite of what he wanted.

Techniques to Try: 

  • Identify how you feel. Take 10 minutes and write about what happened if you're upset. How do you feel (e.g., “I’m angry with myself for missing a deadline.”) What do you sense in your body? (e.g., stomach in knots, headache, tenseness in the chest)
  • Get in touch with the leader you want to be in response to the situation. Calm yourself and ground into your values, then respond.
  • Decide how you want to feel. Write it down.
  • Now care for yourself. Make a plan for achieving your desired emotion. (e.g., take a walk, breathe deep, or talk to a friend). Then talk to your team.

Kick Your Social Awareness Up a Notch!

A friend of mine recently told me how her supervisor helped her save her job. You see, she had just returned to work after two and a half years of being a stay-at-home mom, and she found it stressful and unfulfilling. She thought the solution was to quit. Luckily, her supervisor had been noticing that she seemed a bit stressed and invited her to have a candid conversation about her work. Presenting the situation to their district manager and business owner, they each took the time to listen to my friend and made her realize she mattered. She decided to stay.

Sheldon Yellen, CEO of BEFOR Holdings, Inc., is another example of a socially aware leader. When his brother-in-law hired him in 1985, he wanted to ensure that the employees didn’t think he was getting special treatment. So, to build a relationship with the employees, he began writing a birthday card for each employee to show his gratitude for their contributions. It worked so well that he now writes 9,200 cards annually.

Techniques to Try:

  • Observe body language, especially in group settings, and respond supportively. For example, if you notice an employee trying to speak up in a meeting, but others talk over them, pause the conversation, and ask for the employee’s input.
  • Validate team members by giving individualized attention and feedback.
  • Don’t correct employees in group settings. When possible, have safe, open, and honest conversations privately and before writing up an employee for grievances or implementing consequences.

Build resiliency and trust as a leaderBuild Resiliency in Your Leadership and Be Approachable

Emotionally intelligent leaders are resilient decision-makers and problem solvers. They manage stress well, adapt to any environment, and set healthy boundaries. They are also highly empathetic and people-focused. 

Take the case of one of my clients; we’ll call her Paige. Paige is a director of operations managing dozens of projects and people at any given time, and the end of the year is always crunch time. In her first year, she struggled to juggle deadlines and holiday schedules with her teams. She felt she only had time for knee-jerk reactions, which tended to snowball into bigger problems with productivity and morale. And this crisis management style infringed on employee's holiday plans with their families.

The next year, she prepared herself and her teams. Months in advance, she reflected on her pain points and asked her teams to do the same. Then together, they created new best practices that helped them manage project expectations, reduce stress, and ensure that no one’s holidays were ruined by unnecessary stress. This forethought is leading instead of reacting.

Read More: 6 Powerful Skills Successful Leaders Possess

Techniques to Try:

  • Identify common points of conflict and jot down your initial gut reactions.
  • Plan and brainstorm productive ways to respond to these common challenges.
  • Accept that unexpected problems will happen. Take a breather and remember that all storms pass, especially when handled with emotional intelligence.
  • Don’t hold on to mistakes or grudges. Acknowledge blunders and forgive yourself and your team.
  • Celebrate successes—even minor ones! Focusing on what went well will encourage you and your employees while building trust that future challenges will be handled competently.
Related reading: "Why Emotional Intelligence Is Crucial in Business Today"

Keep Going!

When my children were young, one of my favorite Walt Disney movies was Finding Nemo and the refrain by Dory, “Just keep swimming.” When things get tough, it’s great advice. Sometimes, the most critical thing we can do as leaders or when running a business is to just keep going. Staying power is part of resiliency. Keep yourself encouraged.

Emotional intelligence, just like leadership itself, is a skill, and it can be learned and mastered. If you don’t want to make the journey alone, Heartmanity for Business is here to help. Our executive coaching and leadership training will give you and your team the tools you need to be successful. Visit our website to get started.  

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Jennifer A. Williams / Heartmanity for BusinessJennifer A. Williams / Heartmanity for Business
As an Executive Coach and Relationship Strategist, Jennifer’s specialties are empowering leaders, team building, and teaching emotional intelligence. Her emphasis is on utilizing brain science to short-cut change and create personal and organizational transformation. For over two decades, Jennifer has worked with entrepreneurs and businesses to remove the obstacles to authentic communication, collaboration, and teamwork. Jennifer also acts as a Human Resources independent consultant in larger companies and trains Customer Service teams in the art of empathy and handling difficult conversations. Her passionate mission is to create thriving relationships at work and home.

Posted in Business and Leadership