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Diahanne Rhiney's picture
Diahanne Rhiney
Emotional intelligence and good leadership

WE'VE ALL come across people perhaps executives or managers who were highly skilled, promoted into a leadership position only to fail at the job.

On the other hand, we also know a story about someone with solid—but not extraordinary—intellectual abilities and technical skills who was promoted into a similar position and then soared. So when you think of the perfect leader, what are the things that come to mind? What is ‘the stuff’ a good leader is made of?

Psychologist Daniel Goleman has identified that the most effective leaders are similar in one crucial way, they all have high levels of emotional intelligence. Picture someone who never lets his or her temper get out of control, no matter what the problem. Or someone who has the complete trust of their staff, listens to their team, is easy to talk to, and always makes careful, informed decisions. This is ‘the extra special stuff’ that makes a good leader. Numerous studies have shown a positive relationship between emotionally intelligent leadership and employee satisfaction, retention, and performance. I would also add that the traditional qualities associated with leadership such as determination and vision are not always sufficient for success.

The ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you is known as emotional intelligence. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence understand what they're feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people. This quality gives individuals a variety of skills, such as the ability to manage relationships, navigate social networks, influence and inspire others. We all have different levels, but in order for us to become effective leaders, we need a high level of emotional intelligence. In today’s workplace, it has been shown to influence productivity, efficiency and team collaboration.

One of the oldest arguments concerning leadership is whether good leaders are born or made. Are there some innate qualities and characteristics that drive success, or can leadership be developed and nurtured? Research suggests it is a combination and that leaders are one third born and two thirds made. This is great for people like myself involved in people development, as leaders as well as emotional intelligence can indeed be developed, which is why large companies now employ trained psychologists to develop and nurture their ‘future stars’.

Goleman identifies 5 key elements that the more that you, as a leader, manage each of these areas, the higher your emotional intelligence.

1: Self-awareness

They understand their emotions and don’t let their emotions get out of control. They do not let their feeling rule them, therefore they become more confident – because they trust their intuition. They are honest with themselves and know their strengths and weaknesses, which they improve so they can perform better. Many people believe that this self-awareness is the most important part of emotional intelligence.

2: Self-regulation

They think before they act. Are not impulsive and have the ability to say no.

3: Motivation

Are self motivated and usually willing to defer immediate results for long term success.

4: Empathy

The ability to identify with and understand the wants, needs, and viewpoints of others. Good at recognising the feelings of others, even when those feelings may not be obvious. As a result, empathetic people are usually excellent at managing relationships, listening and relationships. They avoid stereotyping and judging too quickly, and are very transparent.

5: Social skills

Typical team players. Rather than focus on their own success first, they help others develop and shine. They manage disputes, are excellent communicators and are masters at building and maintaining relationships.

Research on emotional intelligence supports the belief that identifying individuals with the “right stuff” to be leaders is more art than science and not just limited to the world of business. Emotional Intelligence is fast becoming an essential tool in developing high-quality teachers who can learn to actively engage with there students. Similarly, students can be taught not just a ‘learning’ skill, but also a life skill that can help them through their teenage years, right through to adulthood. This will lead to few behavioural issues in the classroom, higher levels of self-esteem and more collaborative and authentic teacher-student relationships.

Essentially, emotionally intelligence can help us in all areas of our life. All we need to do is take the time to develop and nurture it. Remember that emotional intelligence can be improved, no matter how low or high it is, through concerted effort and a willingness to be open and to change your ways.

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