Why Emotional Intelligence is a Key Leadership Competency

Why Emotional Intelligence is a Key Leadership Competency

Great leadership is no longer about giving orders and asserting authority. Rather, leading effectively means building relationships that bring out the best in others and enable them to do their best work.  

That means leaders need sensitivity to, and understanding of, their team’s unique strengths, motivations and vulnerabilities, as well as their own. The key is emotional intelligence, or the ability to perceive and manage emotions both in oneself and in others.  

Let’s explore emotional intelligence in depth — what it is, why leaders need it and how it can benefit us in the workplace.  

What is emotional intelligence?  

Emotional intelligence is the awareness and understanding of feelings — both your own and other peoples’. The ability to recognize and identify emotions is key to managing them more effectively, such as by tapping into self-control, or by communicating with a colleague or a report more sensitively.  

Psychologist Dr. Daniel Siegel has referred to this philosophy as “to name it is to tame it.” Once we can label and recognize our emotions, it’s much easier to attain the objectivity and distance we need to prevent them from ruling our behaviour.  

Emotional intelligence can be broken down into four components — recognizing and managing emotions in one’s self, and doing so for others. According to research from Canadian human resources consultancy McLean & Company, the four components of emotional intelligence can be described as:  

  •  Self-awareness  
    • Emotional self-awareness  
    • Accurate self-assessment  
    • Self-confidence  
  • Self-management 
    • Self-control  
    • Transparency 
    • Adaptability  
  • Social Awareness
    • Empathy  
    • Organizational awareness 
    • Service orientation  
  • Relationship management 
    • Developing and inspiring others  
    • Conflict management  
    • Teamwork and collaboration 

Why do leaders need emotional intelligence?  

In today’s professional landscape, emotional intelligence — and its associated skills, like communication, change management and conflict resolution — are must-haves for leaders, especially when things get tough.  

Today, forward-thinking professionals understand true leadership is all about building, nurturing and managing relationships. Yesteryear’s top-down, authoritarian leadership style is now seen as dated, inflexible and harmful. Leaders must be able to unify, inspire and bring out the best in their teams if they want to succeed. That takes a nuanced understanding of the feelings that make us human.  

“You can cover for an absence of emotional intelligence until things get tough,” researcher Daniel Coleman explained to Harvard Business Review. “But at that point, you won’t have built up the social capital needed to pull the best out of people under tremendous pressure. The art of sustained leadership is getting others to produce superior work, and high IQ alone is insufficient to that task.”  

Emotional intelligence is an important life skill for everybody. But because their words and actions have so much influence, it’s critically important for leaders. 

What are some ways leaders can use emotional intelligence?  

Intuitively, many leaders understand the value of emotional intelligence. But what are some practical ways they can apply it at work?  

From leadership strategist and speaker Shadé Zahrai, here are some ways emotionally intelligent leaders can uplift and bring out the best in their teams.  

  •  Tap into specific emotions when it benefits their individual team members’ work, such as a high-energy state for brainstorming or a more detached state for analysis.  
  • Accurately perceive issues with employee engagement, then take concrete steps to address it. 
  • Accept that emotional intelligence is a skill to be honed, and continuously work on improving it.  
  • Build team engagement and loyalty by inspiring positive connections.  

Great leaders tap into emotion 

With emotional intelligence, leaders can learn to reframe how we view emotions in the workplace. If properly managed, emotions are not unprofessional, inconvenient or a sign of weakness. In fact, they are valuable data that can help us do better work and build stronger relationships with one another.  

Building emotional intelligence is a lifelong journey — LC Extension has plenty of resources to support you and your leadership team. Learn more about our offerings today.  

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