What is Emotional Intelligence for Leaders?

Written by Haley Boyce

emotional intelligence

It has been scientifically proven that emotion comes before a complete thought forms in our brain. In times of elevated emotions, the feelings we have alter the way our brain functions, reducing our cognition and ability to make decisions, and impacting our interpersonal skills.

Being aware and capable of managing our emotions is known as emotional intelligence. 

Becoming trained in emotional intelligence is an important aspect of respectable leadership. Emotional intelligence helps us to turn uncomfortable conversations into productive ones without the risk of hurting someone’s feelings, curbing the intensity of our emotions during times of stress, enhancing relationships among team members, and in turn improving productivity. Furthermore, emotional intelligence can help us mend fractured relationships among team members or other stakeholders, coach and encourage others, create a collaborative team spirit, and structure a more emotionally secure place that fosters good mental health. 

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and positively manage emotions in yourself, others, and among groups.

Emotionally intelligent leaders are able to honestly look at themselves and see how their behavior affects others.

It is important for leaders to be emotionally intelligent in order to build trust with and among colleagues, manage difficult situations, build resilience, increase team productivity and performance, and achieve long-term success. 

The term emotional intelligence was first coined in 1990 by researchers Peter Salavoy and John Mayer in their article titled “Emotional Intelligence” published in the journal Imagination, Cognition, and Personality. It was later popularized by Dan Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence, published in 1995. 

10 Ways to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

getting thoughts togetherWe must always be dynamic, evolving creatures. Knowing how to treat others starts with how we treat ourselves. By learning to achieve and maintain emotional intelligence, we become better equipped to serve our team members and all other stakeholders.

Here are a few tips on how to reach (and stay) aware of emotional needs, both personally and in the workplace. Remember, it starts with you. 

1. Observe How You Feel

It’s easy, when we’re leading a team, to fix ourselves on the goal so much that we forget to live through the journey as humans instead of robots. When we get stuck in this mindset of reaching a goal – sometimes at any cost – we allow ourselves to be put in the vulnerable situation of human degradation. Our boundaries become weakened; our moral standards become wobbly. As you work, pause to seriously ask yourself how you’re feeling. If you are uncomfortable with something, what is it and how can it be solved? If you’re happy with something, is it benefitting everyone involved? If so, how can you keep this momentum?

2. Pay Attention to How You Behave

If you’ve ever snapped at someone in a tense moment, it did nothing to positively impact your team. It also didn’t make you feel any better in the long run. Your reputation outside of the workplace could tarnish your standing with your company and how it is perceived by the public consumer as well, so being mindful of your behavior is crucial. 

3. Question Your Own Opinions

As a leader, it’s easy to get lost in the mindset that every decision you make is the right one for your team or organization. However, every opinion is disputable – including yours. Honesty is one mark of a great ethical leader. So, be honest with yourself about your own opinions regarding any given topic that matters to the company’s success. This includes checking any bias with regard to gender, sexual orientation, race, or religion. 

4. Own Your Feelings

Your emotions are yours and yours alone. How you respond to any given situation will set the tone for your team. Positivity begets positivity just as much as negativity does. 

5. Celebrate the Positive

There is no such thing as a small victory. A win is a win, no matter how much of an impact it makes on the company’s goal. 

6. Be Mindful of the Negative

It’s true what they say – of all the things you could possibly remember about a person, how they made you feel will be what stands out the most. Things won’t always go your way and those are the times to be most aware of the negativity. Learn from the pitfalls. Keep toxic attitudes at bay so your team will adopt the same mentality.

7. Breathe

What are your emotional triggers? What is it that someone could do that pushes you into the zone of no return, where your temper flares and people see the side of you they never should? Knowing what angers you and being able to look far enough down the road to predict that you might react negatively is an opportunity for you to take a step back for a moment. For the sake of everyone involved, give yourself permission to take a walk, practice meditative breaths, pray, or anything else that regulates your emotions in times of high stress. 

8. Journal

Spending time in written reflection helps to process events and the emotional fallout. Journaling not only helps to unpack how you’re feeling day in and day out, but doing so consistently helps you to track the major events in your life and how they make you feel.  

9. Learn to Look at Yourself Objectively

As much as we’d like to ignore it, how others view us is very important. Especially as leaders at work. Healthy emotional intelligence means being able to check the ego at the door in favor of looking at ourselves objectively. What are we doing well? What needs to improve in our business dealings? Take ownership of the blunders and blind spots without letting your feelings get in the way. 

10. Cultivate a Curiosity About Strangers

The more people you engage in conversation, the more enlightened you will become by diverse stories of trial, error, success, and needs. Your company’s purpose is to serve a need of some kind. Getting to know every single person that you can is key to broadening your reach and, therefore, your reputation and profit. 

Emotional Intelligence Training for Leaders

emotional intelligence todayThe purpose of emotional intelligence training is to give a leader a well-rounded approach to managing a team of people. Business isn’t only about creating quality content; it’s about getting the people who work for the company to give their best. This is where emotional intelligence comes into play. 

No matter the type of company you lead, you’re in the business of putting people first.

Managing your team is about recognizing the needs of each individual so that they can work to their highest ability. Staying abreast of current psychology and communication skills is key to team management. Though the types of emotional intelligence trainings are vast, this is what you can expect to:

Topics covered during emotional intelligence trainings will likely include: