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How can I enhance my emotional intelligence as a leader?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a must-have if you want to be an effective leader. EI is a type of soft skill that is both inward-facing and outward-facing. Being aware and in control of your own emotions as well as respecting others’ emotions is critical as work, the workforce and workplaces evolve. Performance, productivity, outcomes and individual success are benefits from strong emotional intelligence.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman created a widely used model of emotional intelligence based on four principles: self-awareness, social awareness, self-regulation and relationship management. Let’s break them down:

  • Self-Awareness: The goal is to be aware of yourself in the moment. Notice how you are feeling, and name the emotions. Are you concerned, unsure, tired, energized? How are your emotions affecting your current situation?
  • Self-Regulation: Once you are aware of your emotions, realize that you are in control of them. You choose how you feel and how you respond to it. It’s helpful to pause, take a breathe, and then proceed to reacting to your situation with a positive mindset.
  • Social Awareness: You want to learn how to accurately pick up on other people’s emotions and understand their needs. This requires setting aside your own feelings or needs for a moment.
  • Relationship Management: You continually practice self-awareness in order to manage interactions and ongoing situations. Make it a habit to recognize and tend to others’ emotional needs as well as your own. 

Practical Application: Let’s look at how the four principles come into play in a typical scenario. Let’s say you’re in an important meeting with your manager, Janelle, to discuss an ongoing project to implement a new scheduling app. There have been some snags…

  • Self-Awareness: I’ve been nervous about this status meeting with Janelle for days because of all the project delays. I can tell I’m getting defensive about her questions because the delays were beyond our team’s control.
  • Self-Regulation: Janelle is right to question the delays—after all, one of the reasons we’re implementing this scheduling app is so things run on schedule! I can reassure her that we’ve been on top of everything and tell her the steps we’ve taken to correct them.
  • Social Awareness: I can tell Janelle is tense and a little exasperated. This project is under her watch and she needs it to go well. I think she’s not sure I can handle it! I need to reassure her.
  • Relationship Management: I just saw Janelle in the lunch room and she shared that her mom has been ill. Obviously she has a lot on her plate, and worrying about this rollout is adding to her stress. I’ll check in regularly and keep her updated on our progress.

Displaying and practicing emotional intelligence requires you to be in tune with your own feelings and actions as well as those of the people around you. It means you respond thoughtfully to situations, rather than impulsively. Leadership is a never-ending journey that requires emotional intelligence, conscious action, and ownership of everything you cause along the way. Remember, good leaders are good humans, too! You got this!

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