The importance of emotional intelligence (EI) in leadership is increasingly being recognized as the expanding amount of research is proving that EI is an important ingredient for effective leadership. One study showed that 90% of top performers are high in emotional intelligence. Top business schools, such as Yale, are beginning to look at emotional intelligence levels as admittance criteria along with high school grades. The good news is that everyone can increase their EI, regardless of their level. Here are some areas to look at.
Great leaders make themselves and personal improvement, a life long project. They find people who will point out the truth about how they come across to others and areas they could improve. They secure organizations who will accommodate them or hire a coach that will give them honest feedback. Leaders recognize and accept that they are a work in progress and are always striving to improve. They view their shortcomings as opportunities for improvement and then pass this awareness and opportunity to others junior to themselves.
Developing listening skills
In the field of the communications family, listening skills have always been the poor cousins, not receiving the attention and respect deserved. Good leaders, however, have always been aware of the importance of listening. They recognize that we all have a strong desire to be heard. From developing good listening skills, we not only receive more crucial information, we are able to connect with others through picking up meanings and messages behind the spoken word. Normally when we listen, we are thinking of a response, which keeps us from really hearing the other person. In a couples workshop, that my partner and I took, we learned a great technique for developing listening skills. One of us would speak for a couple of minutes. The other person was not allowed to talk during that time. At the end the other person would repeat back to the speaker what they said, or what they thought they heard. Toastmasters is a great place to pick up public speaking skills and confidence that develops listening skills. The meetings include many opportunities to give feedback which require focused listening.
Showing a genuine interest in the people they are leading
One of the sweetest sounds is to hear our own name, spoken correctly. One of the most basic actions that an effective leader can do is to learn the names of his or her staff, and how to pronounce them correctly. An emotionally intelligent leader not only learns names but finds out as much about his or her staff as possible. He or she finds out what is important to them, their families, hobbies and special interests. Showing an interest in the personal lives of staff delivers the feeling they are valued as people, instead of cogs in a machine. One manager went as far as keeping short files of personal information on details important in the lives of all staff to help him remember. When he knew he would be talking to them he would quickly go over the file, then ask them about something that had meaning. They were often totally amazed at how he could remember so much about the large number of staff in his ranks.
Developing the ability to manage their emotions and of those around them.
While managing emotions in the workplace is an important skill for everyone to have, it is crucial for leaders as they set the tone in the workplace. Leaders with high EI are able to keep their emotions under control. Instead of reacting with their emotions, they are able to process information and respond after they have thought about the situation. They are able to pick up the underlying feelings behind the words spoken. This is a crucial ability for a leader who wants to develop close working relationships with and loyalty from staff. Employees want first and foremost to be heard. Often there is no quick or easy solution to the problem. A leader with a good dose of EI can often diffuse that anger by listening and recognizing the feelings. A sure sign of a workplace that has leaders with low EI is that negative feelings are never acknowledged, but simply left to fester and grow.
Develop a strong sense of appreciation
If asked what they are grateful for, good leaders will be able to quickly come up with a long list. They see themselves as servants and are always appreciative and cognizant of the fact that they have others to thank for getting to where they are. One way of developing gratitude is to keep a gratitude book and every morning before you do anything else, write down ten things you are grateful for. This helps to keep up a positive attitude and motivation throughout the day. Another great way is to volunteer and spend time helping those less fortunate. Self-aware leaders always consider how they would like to be treated when dealing with those reporting to them. They give of their time and resources generously to help staff who are struggling as well as contributing to their community.