Emotional intelligence is a person’s ability to identify and manage their own emotions and the emotions of others. These days, the term is used so often it has become a leadership development buzzword. But how important is emotional intelligence really? The short answer: even more important than you might expect.
In the book, “Emotional Intelligence 2.0,” authors Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves set out to test the importance of various skills, hoping to identify which are most likely to lead to workplace success. They discovered that of all workplace skills, emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance. Their results showed that a high emotional intelligence score accounts for a mind-blowing 58 percent of success in all types of jobs.
Here’s what emotional intelligence looks like in a leader:
Emotionally Intelligent Leaders Know Themselves
These leaders are acutely self-aware. Through introspection, they have come to know themselves on a deep level. They have rock-solid values and know their own strengths, but also their weaknesses. This is key—it allows them to know in advance how they are likely to react to various situations. They rarely fly off the handle and know how to stay calm, cool and collected. And if a potentially stressful conversation is on the horizon, emotionally intelligent leaders take the time to prepare mentally.
They Make an Effort to Empathize
Emotionally intelligent leaders are preceptive, especially when it comes to other people’s feelings. They pay close attention to body language and anticipate the emotions of others. They also make a conscious effort to put themselves in other people’s shoes. This is critical for developing excellent communication skills and maintaining meaningful relationships. Being empathetic helps leaders avoid unnecessary conflict but is also the X-factor that makes certain leaders terrific mentors!
How Can You Develop Emotional Intelligence? Pause and Reflect.
Leaders who want to cultivate their emotional intelligence should take every opportunity to reflect. This is how self-awareness is built. You can develop a routine to boost emotional awareness by scheduling private time to unpack each day or week’s events. Pay attention to how you are feeling throughout your day and notice how your emotions contributed to your decisions and actions. Some leaders even keep a daily journal where they can deal with negativity instead of bringing it with them into the workplace. Over time, you can find techniques that will help you self-regulate when stress builds up. Everyone is different—maybe journaling and meditation just don’t work well for you, and you find that dropping a fishing pole in the lake is perfect for clearing your head!
Don’t be afraid to reach out to a mentor or close relation who is particularly gifted in this area. Progress can be slow, but it’s remarkable how much difference emotional awareness can make in leadership.