Whatever acronym you prefer, one thing I reckon we can probably agree on, is that having a high level of EI is absolutely crucial in order for someone to be a good leader.
Quite frankly, if you don’t agree with that statement, I’m not quite sure what you are doing here reading a blog written by someone who is very clearly in the ‘people first’ camp. Or in other words, lives by Sir Richard Branson’s words:
“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
Oh and why do we need to care about the type of leaders we have in our organisation?
Well, because good leaders are an absolutely essential ingredient of high performance workplace cultures. Boom.
What does emotional intelligence in a leader look like?
To begin with, I’m going to share an example from my dim, dark past about a boss that I had who was the very antithesis of anything resembling emotionally intelligent.
This boss, let’s call him Keats, was one of my very first bosses when I was a bright eyed and bushy tailed young lawyer. You know, back sometime in the last century. [EEEK. How old do I feel writing that!]
This boss was very happy with himself – and told me so – whenever he made me cry. Because, as he gleefully shared with me, making me cry would toughen me up and make me a better lawyer.
He also refused to have tissues in his office because his clients (most often vulnerable females seeking family law advice) ‘choose to be with the d**head in the first place, why should I suffer for their mistakes’?
Don’t even get me started on what he said to me at my engagement party. Which is clearly still impacting me, nearly three decades later. [Side note, yes, excellent question. I have no idea why he was invited to my engagement party either. Live and learn people, live and learn].
In corner A, ‘Keats’ is a very classic example of a manager severely lacking in emotional intelligence.
In corner B, let’s look at a manager brimming with EQ.
This manager, let’s call them ‘Aleta’, is invested in getting to know you, and what makes you tick. She understands that sometimes life happens, and what goes on outside of work can impact how you show up at work. Aleta supports you through these times.
If she needs to have a discussion with you about an aspect of your performance, Aleta does so coming from the basis of treating you like an adult. Aleta doesn’t shout at you (either verbally or VIA ALL CAPS IN EMAILS), nor does she belittle you or your opinions.
And when Aleta is stressed and under the pump from her manager, she doesn’t take this out on you or any other of her direct reports.
Now compare our manager in Corner A with our manager in Corner B. Then tell me who you think is going to get the best results from their team?
The leader with the highest EQ every-time.
That’s Aleta. In case you needed me to spell that out. Huge gulp over here if you did.
Of course EI is not just a must-have skill for leaders in organisations. It’s basically an essential skill all employees need to display in our current and future workplaces.
The Capgemini Research Institute recently surveyed 750 executives and 1,500 non-supervisory employees around the world about emotional intelligence and found…
74 percent of executives and 58 percent of non-supervisory employees believe that EI will become a “must-have” skill. [From Emotional Intelligence – the essential skillset for the age of AI]
What actually is this thing called emotional intelligence?
“ Emotional intelligence or EI is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence know what they’re feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people.
For leaders, having emotional intelligence is essential for success. “ [Mindtools]
American psychologist Daniel Goldman is generally considered to be the father of EI, in that it was his work that showcased what EI is and why we need to care about having it, through his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.
His work contained the four elements of emotional intelligence:
- self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.
Here’s an infographic to explain what this looks like. #infographicqueen rules again.
How do I improve my EI?
My very good mate Paula is a certified EI expert, and when we talk about ways to manage our emotions and behaviour, one of her favourite sayings is this one from Viktor Frankl.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
In other words – think before you act!
Other tips for improving your EI are:
- Understand your current level of EI
- There are free online resources which you can download to assess your EI.
- Here’s one I’ve used – I’m not endorsing it as such, I’m simply sharing that I have used it and found it helpful in confirming my strengths (hello there empathy) as well as identifying an area for improvement. See Paula’s favourite mantra above.
- Seek other’s opinion
- Once you have a baseline of where your EI is at, talk to people in your ‘challenge network’ and ask them if they think your self-assessment is realistic, or if they have other perceptions of you that they are happy to share.
- Note, your challenge network is a group of 2-3 people who you trust to give you genuine and honest feedback. Warts and all.
- Be proactive
- Think about issues that commonly frustrate you, and then think about how you might be able to respond differently when you are next faced with these triggers.
- For me, long and repeated phone conversations with certain Aussie Telcos, bring out a side of me I never previously knew existed. Suffice to say it’s not pretty. After much reflection, I realised that responding to my frustration by yelling at the person at the other end of the line (told you I wasn’t pretty) was not helpful to anyone.
- Now if / when I have to have these conversations (noting I usually try to delegate them to other family members where possible), I use an online chat function. The time between waiting for the operator to type their comment into the chat box before I need to respond, helps cool the jets.
- In other words I’m ‘listening’, pausing, and thinking about my response, before I actually respond.
- Learn from others
- Perhaps you have a manager like Aleta, or a good friend like Paula. When I’m faced with a tricky conflict situation, I often pause and consider how Paula would respond.
- Usually this will make me smile – and guess what. Through both the pause and the positive emotion, I’ve already improved on whatever my first response was going to be. #winwin
- After a negative interaction, and after some time has passed and your emotions have cooled, properly think about what happened.
- Do you need to take responsibility for your behaviour and respond to the other person? Do you need to apologise? If so – make sure you do!
- Are there things you have learned you need to do differently next time?
Self-awareness is key. Consider maintaining a journal of tense interactions you might have with others, note how you responded, and include your reflections and what you can learn from this situation.
By the way, you don’t need to take my word about the EI as a must-have skill in our current workforce and into the future.
You might prefer to take the word of the Father of EI instead, as quoted in a recent ABC article, What is emotional intelligence at work.
“In the workplace, it turns out that emotionally intelligent workers perform better, they’re more engaged in what they do. Leaders who have emotional intelligence get better productivity out of people, and people like working for them.” Daniel Goldman.
In other words – if you want to have a high performance culture, then you are going to need to have high levels of EI across your business.
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