Being emotionally intelligent is without a doubt, one of, if not the most important trait in being an effective leader. Various studies throughout the past decade have shown that having a leader who is able to get results by tapping into both the positive and negative emotions of others, whilst being acutely aware of their own, is more likely to retain staff and improve employee relationships than anything else.
So, as a leader who wants to be as effective as possible, ask yourself, how do you measure up in terms of your emotional intelligence?
Can you spot negative emotions?
Firstly, think about whether you are able to pre-empt negative emotions and stop them in their tracks. For instance, take the example of an employee who is feeling stressed, and then proceeds to take their frustrations out on the rest of the team. An emotionally intelligent leader will know their team members, and what triggers their negative thought patterns. They will be empathetic and will understand the cause of this emotion, but also be proactive in ensuring this emotion doesn’t have a knock on effect towards employee well-being, team morale and productivity.
Can you tap into positive emotions?
Secondly, as a leader, you know that you will also need to nurture positive emotions within your team, as positivity equals productivity and productivity equals results. One thing that an emotionally intelligent leader will do in order to make this task easier for themselves, is to try and understand what stimulates positive emotions in others, such as feeling inspired, motivated or purposeful. For instance, some of your employees may feel motivated when they know they are being trusted with an important project, others may respond better to clear and immutable deadlines. Everyone in your team is different, and it’s worth taking the time to find out what makes each of them tick.
In doing this, you can direct others in a way which resonates with them on an emotional level, as opposed to the outdated “command and control” style of leadership which, in most business contexts, just makes for a detached workforce.
Do you listen to people?
Another facet of being an emotionally intelligent leader is being a good listener. Being able to listen to employees and make them feel heard is key in maintaining an engaged workforce who care about the objectives of the business.
Reflect upon how often members of your team come to you with ideas, issues and feedback. What about the meetings you lead? Do these feel like an inclusive conversation? If so, this suggests that you come across as approachable and interested in what people have to say, because you take the time to actively listen to those around you.
If on the other hand, those around you simply nod and agree, reluctant to add their own input, then it may be time to brush up on your active listening skills. During meetings and one on one conversations, be sure to ask everyone for their contribution, and show that you are at least considering what they have to say, whether it’s by agreeing, adding to their feedback, repeating it back to them to show you are listening or taking notes. There are plenty of ways to show somebody that you are paying attention to them, and in the context of leading others, nothing motivates an employee more than them feeling heard.
Do you realise the impact of your own emotions?
As a senior level employee, you are in a high-pressure position. This can prompt negative emotions such as stress or anxiety, and this is something that happens to even the best leaders. However, the emotionally intelligent ones will be able to take a step back and recognise these emotions and the ways in which they could channel themselves into negative behaviour, such as becoming more withdrawn or on the contrary, more belligerent, snapping at those around them. They will take action, for example exercising to relieve stress, having a break, or communicating their issues to somebody who can help or at least listen. They do this so that they are in the best frame of mind possible to empathise, support and inspire those they lead.
In short, if you want to be an emotionally intelligent leader who engages their team, you must listen and understand them, identify and handle any of their negative feelings simmering below the surface, whilst doing your utmost to tap into positive emotions in order to inspire and motivate. However, you need to remember that these efforts can quickly be scuppered if you let your own negative emotions get the better of you. You need to take the time to care for your own emotional well-being as well as that of others. You owe it not just to yourself, but to the people looking up to you.