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Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

You have probably heard the term Emotional Intelligence (EI). You may even know what it is. But do you know why it is important? Do you know what role EI plays in your success?

EI is the ability to control your own emotions, understand your emotions, what they mean and how they impact others. EI does not mean suppressing or hiding emotion, it means controlling them in a way that is beneficial to you and those around you. You can show that you are angry or upset without yelling. You can show that you are frustrated without slamming your fist on a table. Masters of EI can show these emotions in a constructive way resulting in a positive outcome.

Why is EI important? Have you ever had a boss or known a leader that had trouble controlling their emotions when something went wrong? Think about the shift in atmosphere when that person got upset about a deadline being missed, or when some other mistake was made. Did you see changes in attitudes? In morale? In the ability for others to participate and communicate? Was the shift short-lived or did it take a while for others to feel comfortable again?

The emotions you exhibit can set the mood in an environment. They can be the reason others open up or shut down. They can inspire or impede learning and action. Emotions can fuel change or stifle growth. The ability to control your exhibited emotion can have infinite positive effects on your work environment. Think about a work colleague or person you have encountered that gets excited when something new is announced, that takes a deep breath when they are angry and responds with understanding and a problem-solving attitude, that exhibits patience and listens when someone has a new idea and wants to explore the impact on the company. What is the environment like around this person? Are people generally calmer and more open? Are ideas shared more readily? Are successes shared with excitement and gusto?

Do you see a trend? The person you know that is successfully managing their emotions has created an environment where people feel safe, heard, and valued. The person that is not successfully managing their emotions has done the opposite.

The human brain has the equivalent of two minds that operate independently. The rational brain – the one that ponders and reflects. And the Emotional brain – the one that is impulsive and powerful. The emotional brain can interfere with intellect.

As a leader (remember that being a leader is not about your title, it is about your impact), your emotional intelligence is key to your success, as well as the success of your colleagues and your company.

There are four dimensions of EI and there are several ways to improve each of these dimensions to increase your EI.

  1. Self-Awareness

  2. Ways to improve – practice reflection and seek feedback, listen to the feedback and take corrective action)

  3. Self-Regulation Ways to improve – in stressful situations, step back. Give yourself a minute. Ask yourself if your emotion is clouding your judgement. Can you differentiate what your emotion is telling you to do and what your logic or reasoning is telling you to do? Take time to process these questions before responding to the situation.

  4. Social Awareness Ways to improve – practice empathy (listening and empathizing with other’s issues, seeking to understand through their lens).

  5. Relationship Management Ways to improve – practice optimism in all your relationships (especially the most challenging), tackle tough conversations head on (while practicing empathy), and consistently practice expressing gratitude and appreciation.

The more you practice improving your EI dimensions, the more it will become a habit or reflex and the easier it will be to control your emotions in stressful situations. Becoming a master of EI is key to being or becoming a successful leader that inspires others to be their best self.


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