Developing Emotional Intelligence in Leaders

Many leaders need to strengthen their skills in emotional intelligence. For example, it’s not uncommon for leaders to lack self-awareness of how their behavior is affecting others they lead.  In addition, a number of leaders struggle to manage their emotional reactions as well as appropriately respond to challenging situations and difficult people in the workplace. Organizations who care about retention of talent, and who want to be employers of choice, know that numerous studies point to the value of giving people what they need to do their jobs well. These challenges signal a need for a leader to further develop emotional intelligence competence.  Not so sure that the stakes are high?  The research of two top retention specialists who’ve written Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em suggests that you need to pay attention to retention.

Why Emotional Intelligence is Vital to Develop in Leaders

Working with emotional intelligence is an important competency for leadership development because when leaders can’t manage themselves, their emotions, and their behavior, they’re less likely to be able to manage others effectively. For this reason, self-awareness and self-management are two of the most important competencies leaders must have, and both require emotional intelligence.

Working with emotional intelligence is an important competency for leadership development because when leaders can’t manage themselves, their emotions, and their behavior, they’re less likely to be able to manage others effectively. For this reason, self-awareness and self-management are two of the most important competencies leaders must have, and both require emotional intelligence.

Research shows that emotional intelligence competence distinguishes the most effective leaders. According to Daniel Goleman, a prominent thought leader on emotional intelligence, over 80% of the skills that characterize excellent leaders as different from merely average leaders, are linked to emotional intelligence.

In addition, the Center for Creative Leadership, in its report on Leadership and Emotional Intelligence, found that higher levels of emotional intelligence are associated with better leadership performance in critical management responsibilities such as:

  • Participative management
  • Building relationships
  • Confronting problem employees
  • Change management

Leadership Challenges Require Emotional Intelligence

Leaders are faced with many challenges in their roles including stress, conflict, competing interests, interpersonal complexities, handling the consequences of errors and mistakes, working through others to accomplish results, and building loyal and motivated teams. These situations can elicit emotional reactions in leaders, and may be difficult to navigate in an emotionally intelligent manner if leaders don’t have the right skills.

In addition to managing their own emotions in the workplace to rise up to these challenges, leaders must respond to a range of emotional reactions on their teams including anger, disappointment, and stress. This involves not only addressing others’ emotional reactions, but also being aware of how their own behavior as leaders (i.e. tone, body language, words, actions, etc.) may have contributed to those reactions. In future interactions, leaders need to be able to anticipate reactions and adjust their behavior.  The good news is, that if you are paying attention, the research findings are compelling that everyone can continuously improve.

Emotional Intelligence Skills that Leaders Must Develop

In order to be effective and emotionally intelligent leaders, individuals must develop a variety of skills, specifically the ability to:

  • View situations from others’ perspectives with empathy
  • Consider how their behavior will affect others
  • Appropriately respond to employees’ feelings, reactions, and verbal or non-verbal cues
  • Stay optimistic and maintain a positive attitude in the face of obstacles or challenges
  • Remain calm, think clearly, and effectively solve problems when under stress or in a crisis
  • Recognize how their own emotions affect their behavior
  • Focus on and attentively listen to others; avoid distractions
  • Clearly communicate thoughts, opinions, and information in a professional manner
  • Control impulsive feelings, desires, and emotions
  • Avoid hasty and emotionally-driven decisions
  • Understand and respond to the feelings, needs, and concerns of others
  • Positively and productively resolve conflict
  • Build good working relationships with employees
  • Use positive motivation and influence versus fear or manipulation

Three Ways to Develop Emotional Intelligence in Leaders

There are a number of proven ways to develop these emotional intelligence skills. Below are three (3) of the most common and effective ways to improve emotional intelligence in leaders.

360-degree feedback: Through 360-degree feedback, employees, coworkers, the leader’s supervisor, and others rate leaders on their emotional intelligence and other interpersonal competencies associated with leadership, usually via an online survey or assessment. Typically, the feedback involves a debriefing session. If done well with a solid process based on best practices, 360s can be very effective in helping to improve a leader’s self-awareness of how others view them and are impacted by their attitudes and behavior.

Coaching: One-on-one coaching, based on an individual leader’s unique needs, can be very effective in eliciting behavior change. Emotional intelligence coaching typically focuses on building self-awareness, improving self-management, and enhancing interpersonal competencies. Participating leaders, usually senior executive leaders or mid-level managers, create personalized developmental goals and work with the coach to meet them.

Training: Leadership development workshops, training on topics related to emotional intelligence, and positive psychology education can also be useful developmental tools. Effective training programs typically cover multiple aspects of emotional intelligence such as social skills, communication, navigating emotions, empathy, optimism, motivation, self-awareness, and self-regulation. These programs teach leaders practical tools and ways to manage and regulate their emotions, as well as those of others.

In most organizations, a combination of these developmental methods for personal and professional growth should be used to develop a leader’s emotional intelligence skills.

There are many challenges that leaders face in their roles that if not navigated in an emotionally intelligent manner, can lead to trouble in the workplace. Help leaders develop the necessary emotional intelligence skills so that they can avoid these pitfalls, face challenges and difficulties with ease, and positively impact their team and organization.

 ______________________________________________________________________

There are many challenges that leaders face in their roles that if not navigated in an emotionally intelligent manner, can lead to trouble in the workplace. Help leaders develop the necessary emotional intelligence skills so that they can avoid these pitfalls, face challenges and difficulties with ease, and positively impact their team and organization.

May your work prosper for the good of all,

Kim Langley, M.Ed.

Send me an invite on linkedin!

Visit my Facebook page.