As we head into 2023, there seems to be some disquieting economic storm clouds on the horizon. Many of us are pulling back and focusing on profitability over growth, and many investors are doing the same.
It’s never been more important to understand how effective leadership can impact an organization and individual lives. One topic stands out in my mind as the key to effective leadership: emotional intelligence.
If intelligence quotient (IQ) is the ability to use logic and reasoning to solve problems, emotional quotient – a.k.a. emotional intelligence – (EQ) is the ability to understand, manage, and use your emotions in a positive way—especially in leadership. EQ helps you communicate effectively, empathize with others, build stronger relationships, diffuse conflicts and relieve stress. In short, many of the most effective leaders have a high EQ.
Typically, EQ is broken down into four different categories:
- Self-management. Governing impulsive feelings and behaviors, and managing your emotions in healthy ways so you can more effectively lead others.
- Self-awareness. Understanding how your own emotions affect your behavior. Knowing your personal strengths and weaknesses helps you know your boundaries.
- Social awareness. Using empathy to understand others’ emotions, needs and concerns. Picking up on social cues and recognizing power dynamics in a group or organization.
- Relationship management. Knowing how to develop and maintain healthy relationships, communicate clearly, influence others and manage conflict.
Why do leaders need EQ?
The real difference between average managers and amazing leaders is EQ. And working to improve your EQ can improve your leadership skills – even in challenging times.
Leaders who can manage their own emotions will be able to model the type of behaviors and attitudes expected on the team. They will also be able to stop themselves from taking out their frustrations or anger on their employees or bringing down morale on a day they’re feeling out-of-sorts.
Self-aware leaders are able to openly and honestly lead their teams, which builds trust. They understand how they can become better people and better leaders, and they work to make their weaknesses into strengths.
Social interactions are a huge part of every day at work, even for remote work. Managers with high social awareness will focus more on their employees than themselves during these interactions, learning what the employees want or don’t want and what they like and dislike. This basic knowledge can help leaders discern needs.
Emotionally intelligent leaders strive to understand each of their employees’ feelings and perspectives, and they work hard to communicate effectively with them – a skill called empathy. Consider this: More than 90% of employees are more likely to stay at a workplace if their leaders are empathetic and 90% of employees believe empathy is essential to a healthy workplace culture.
Employees want to be heard, understood and supported. Emotionally intelligent leaders can make sure that happens.
Relationships at work are extremely important. Studies have shown that social connections at work play an integral role in having a sense of purpose and well-being. Relationships also facilitate learning, increase retention, improve engagement, reduce burnout, increase performance and spark creativity.
Building better relationships at work can be challenging, but a great first step is remembering key information about employees. Some of the easiest things to remember are birthdays and work anniversaries. Beyond that, remembering kids’ names or personal interests can help leaders build better relationships as well.
Employee relationships with their managers are just as important as any other social connection at work. When employees feel valued and supported by their managers, they’re more engaged, satisfied, productive and empowered to do their best.
How can leaders improve EQ?
It takes consistent effort and hard work to be more focused on your and others’ emotional well-being. Here are a few good places to start:
- Practice understanding your own emotions. Before you can understand and empathize with another person, you have to understand yourself. Keep a journal and regularly jot down how you’re feeling and why. Make small, measurable goals to increase your self-management, such as minimizing frustrated outbursts.
- Ask more questions and really listen. Asking questions is one of the best ways to learn about the people around you. But only if you listen. Try to ask employees questions such as, “How are you really doing?” or, “What can I do to make your job easier?” Listen to their responses and try to see things from their point of view.
- Follow the 80/20 rule. When you have one-on-ones, make sure employees are talking 80% of the time and you’re only talking 20% of the time. Employees need to feel comfortable opening up to you.
- Help employees achieve their goals. Even if you struggle to understand the feelings employees have, you can still help them do what matters to them. If your employees are passionate or interested in any sort of work-related goal or improvement, do what you can to help them accomplish it.
- Ask for and welcome feedback. As a leader, you need to understand how you’re perceived by others. Three-hundred-sixty-degree feedback is a great way to see what you’re good at and where you can improve.
The bottom line
Emotional intelligence is central to the success of any organization, team and individual leader – and can be an especially beneficial characteristic during challenging times. Managers and leaders need to learn how to really listen to, empathize with, and support their employees. As we strive to improve our emotional intelligence we will be better leaders.