Understanding the Importance of Emotional Intelligence

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The current state of the country involves a careful approach to be mindful of people’s feelings, situations, circumstances, beliefs, and overall well-being. Leaders–now more than ever–need to have a full understanding of emotional intelligence in order to appropriately and effectively support their staff during these difficult times.

Many of us have heard that emotional intelligence (EI or EQ) is one of the keys to success. It is said that managers and organization leaders need emotional intelligence in order to fully understand their team to help them develop professionally and thrive as an employee. But what exactly is EQ? Peter Salavoy and John Mayer, the researchers that created the framework and term, defined emotional intelligence as the ability to, “recognize, understand and manage our own emotions,” and also “recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others.”

Simply put, EQ involves understanding yourself as well as having an understanding of others. Seems easy enough, right? Yet, there are so many people that don’t fully comprehend the utter importance of this seemingly simple concept. Interestingly enough, the presence of countless scholarly articles, blogs, books, and other written works are evidence that emotional intelligence is a rather comprehensive theory that involves a thorough understanding from those that wish to practice it.

Leadership EQ

In an organizational environment, EQ should be at the forefront of leadership. Think about it. When someone is managing a team, they are managing not only themselves, but the workloads, deadlines, emotions, personalities, successes, and even failures of others. Leaders need to keep a cool head under pressure and in crisis and they also must be communicative, trustworthy, understanding, and empathetic towards their team and their team’s personal and professional issues. Being emotional intelligent is a loaded responsibility but loaded things aren’t all bad. Have you ever had a loaded baked potato? Delicious…and EQ can be just as satisfying.

Daniel Goleman is an American author, researcher, and psychologist wrote Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (1995)—a work that helped to popularize the notion of EQ. He broke emotional intelligence down into five key components:

      1. Self-awareness
      2. Self-regulation
      3. Motivation
      4. Empathy
      5. Social skills

Self-Awareness

How well do you know yourself—like truly, know yourself? When you’re self-aware, you know your triggers. You know what can make you smile but you also know what can set you over the edge. In leadership, being self-aware is one way of understanding how your emotions can affect others. A bad day for you doesn’t have to be a bad day for everyone else, too. Knowing yourself allows you to carry yourself a certain way and also opens your eyes to understanding your own strengths and weaknesses.

Self-Regulation

There is a saying that references how good and bad emotions don’t exist, but good and bad reactions do. This is the purest form of self-control. As a leader, you may be angry that you missed a deadline and choose to verbally attack your team throwing blame, make rushed judgments, and make future (and emotional) decisions based on the less-than-under-control emotions you are feeling in the moment. Lacking self-regulation can give you the appearance of a poor leader that doesn’t understand their team, can’t properly communicate, or has overall poor managerial skills because it seems you can’t handle pressure—when all the while, you just had a bad reaction to your emotions. Self-regulation keeps you accountable for your emotions—and reactions—so when faced with mistakes or consequences, you take responsibility and steps to move forward.

Motivation

Motivated people tend to challenge themselves to get a better quality of what they put into their responsibilities. Motivated leaders have higher standards and expectations for themselves and their teams and since these types of leaders are usually optimistic, they remain adaptable, encouraging, and invigorated to reach milestones and achieve goals. Motivated leaders tend to see every success and failure as a lesson and stepping stone. They look for the positive in every situation and this type of behavior is contagious. Once team members begin to see mistakes and failures as lessons, they too become more motivated to learn from them and apply what they’ve learned to future situations.

Empathy

Understanding how your team feels in any given scenario is the only way to truly be empathetic. If you all have been working on a large project that involves coming in early and leaving late, consider how that impacts their lives. Think about the time they’ve spent away from their families and pets. Consider how they were not able to go to their child’s basketball game or take their dog to the park after work on a beautiful day. Tell them that you see how work has impacted them and reward them for their sacrifices. Empathetic leaders can see themselves as others see them and this helps them to be self-aware and self-regulated so that they can provide constructive feedback, be mindful of their tone and body language, and be an overall understanding and trustworthy person that their team can depend on, no matter the situation.

Social Skills

Communication is key in any relationship. Leaders with good communication skills are more adaptable, more adept at resolving conflict, and are also great listeners. For example, you notice how the output of your strongest team member is slipping and they haven’t quite been their normal self lately. You can either talk to them to let them know that you need them to do better or you can listen to them to find the root of the problem. Good social skills are a two-way street and as a leader, sometimes you need to talk, but other times you need to listen.

Learning to become Emotionally Intelligent

Overall, emotional intelligence is beneficial to the workplace. Leaders have stronger engagement with their teams, culture is improved, and the work environment is more productive. Better and more collaborative communication, decreased stress, and stronger relationships are added benefits of EQ. One major thing that needs to be understood is that EQ isn’t so distinct as black and white. There are many grey areas as there is no cookie-cutter approach to applying this theory to the limitless scenarios that exist in the workplace. Workforce Solutions has in-depth courses and resources on learning and applying emotional intelligence to your workplace. We offer two online courses, Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace and Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers, that can help develop your EQ. Coming this fall, we also are hosting Leadership Excellence, a corporate training program that features a cohort of seasoned leaders that will discuss various leadership development topics including emotional intelligence. To learn more about this program, please visit https://lfccworkforce.com/leadership-excellence/ or contact us at 540-868-7021 to see how we can help you become an emotionally intelligent leader.