When it comes to great leadership skills, people generally think about someone who is brave, honest, and driven, which of course are all very important traits.
But are they the most important?
Many modern leaders lose sight of an essential leadership skill that differentiates the good leader, from the great.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise, and react to your own emotions, and the emotions of others.
Emotional intelligence helps leaders recognise stressful situations and react in a positive, more effective manner.
Reacting to an individual’s emotions may seem part of human nature, and it’s easily taken for granted as a leadership skill needed to be successful. But this is where a lot of leaders go wrong.
Here’s why …
Many businesses are turning away from employee participation, and looking to their quarterly and yearly goals for their main priority. Without emotional intelligence in their leadership, the desire to reach these targets creates stressful and competitive environments that lack effective communication.
This type of leadership may get results fast, but in the long run it almost always will result in failure, companies that put employee first ultimately come out on top.
Becoming Self Aware
To truly start understanding the emotions of others, you first need to understand yourself.
Becoming self aware is the first step.
This means coming to terms with your own personality, thoughts, and of course, emotions.
For example, a deadline for an important project is due in just a few days. Naturally this drives stress levels up, and may cause panicked thinking. With proper self awareness you can detect rising stress early, and take control of the situation to calm yourself, and others. This creates an effectively focused environment.
Increasing your self awareness can be as simple as meditating for just 15 minutes a day. It removes unnecessary clutter from your mind and helps you to take control of your emotions.
Knowing your personality type is another step in the right direction. Taking a DISC assessment test or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment will quickly tell you your personality traits and how to effectively work with other personality types.
Awareness of Others
An awareness of other people’s emotions poses a greater challenge than understanding your own. This part of emotional intelligence can be the difference between being a good leader, and being a great one.
When a leader understands their own emotions perfectly, but creates a solitary environment around themselves, they lose trust and communication will quickly dwindle.
And, when there is a lack of communication in the workplace, how do you read emotions correctly?
The invention company, 3M practices strong communication with its employees. They encourage their scientists to share ideas. Where one scientist may no use from a product, another scientist sees opportunity. This has resulted in many great inventions for 3M including the Post-It Note and hundreds of new ideas created everyday.
This equation stays the same in any business. Communication creates a more transparent, and trustworthy environment. As a leader this is exactly what you want. By making it easier for people to express themselves, you are rewarded with trust.
Employees won’t create this kind of thinking on their own. It’s your job to create an open floor policy that invites a flow of regular communication with employees. Keeping an open door and being readily available is essential. If you are open with your employees they will be more outspoken, and that’s when your emotional intelligence is used optimally.
Practice, Practice, Practice.
Emotional intelligence is like many things, it takes practice to master. And, it all comes back to one golden rule:
Make sure you always treat your employees how you would like to be treated.
Before getting heated at an employee for making a mistake, ask yourself: How would I feel in their position?
Simple moves like this will gradually gain trust and respect. It will result in happier employees, and everyone, including yourself, feeling less stressed.
Soon you’ll start to realise the positive effects of emotional intelligence everywhere in your life. Maybe you have a disagreement with a friend or loved one? Instead of engaging in selfish arguing, you’ll be thinking about the best way to figure out a solution that will be best for both of you.
So, make emotional intelligence the standard in your leadership. You will soon see a decrease in stress, and an increase in respect. Emotional intelligence will take your leadership to the next level.
Creative Commons image courtesy Marian Beck.