When you think of strong business leaders, attributes like industry savviness and strategic thinking usually spring to mind. But more and more, emotional intelligence has been identified as a key asset in a business leader's toolkit.
Combining self-awareness with empathy for others, emotional intelligence plays a crucial role in managing stress, fostering collaboration, delivering feedback and, ultimately, creating a happier, more productive environment for everyone.
As a means of developing your skill set, we'll take a closer look at why emotional intelligence is so important for leaders, as well as some ways you can increase emotional intelligence across your own duties.
What is emotional intelligence in business?
Emotional intelligence (which we'll call EI from here on) lets us recognise, understand and handle our emotions as well as the emotions of those around us. When we refer to people with high degrees of EI, we mean they're in tune with their feelings, what their emotions mean, and how their emotions might affect other people.
Basically, EI is vital in successful business leaders. Compared to more domineering, old school methods of leadership, a manager who stays in control of everyone's emotions (as well as their own) and calmly assesses the situation is more likely to succeed.
The work of American psychologist Daniel Goleman has helped popularise EI, particularly his concept of breaking it down into the following five elements:
Empathetic leaders support the career and personal growth of team members, offer constructive criticism and provide regular feedback. Basically, the things that motivate employees to go that extra mile.
Why is emotional intelligence important for business leaders?
At this point, we're sure you’re starting to see why EI is important for business leaders. But what else do the above traits mean for business environments?
Leaders with EI create workplaces where employees feel safe, can suggest ideas, and feel empowered to take calculated risks. And the collaboration that thrives in these kinds of spaces becomes woven into the fabric of a company's culture, rather than just an objective to be achieved.
Emotionally intelligent leaders can also use emotions that let organisations progress forward with their goals. Think of the number of changes that leaders have to manage across their organisation; a leader who can gauge the emotional responses to changes is in a better position to implement them.
Pride and power tend to go hand in hand, too. But leaders with EI check their ego at the door.
Instead, such leaders avoid taking things personally and move on with their plans without worrying about chinks in their armour. Simply put, they're too self-aware to let workplace squabbles stand in the way of productivity.
How to measure emotional intelligence
Measuring intangibles like social skills and self-awareness might seem difficult, but there are valid metrics you can use to measure EI. We'll take a closer look at two of the most recommended below:
Measure 1: The Multidimensional Emotional Intelligence Assessment
This assessment consists of 144 short items which are designed to assess 10 distinct facets of EI, including traits like empathy, creative thinking and recognising emotions in others.
The assessment takes around 20 minutes and provides a personality-based measure of emotional intelligence. When developing the test, researchers stated that the measure is optimal for:
Measure 2: The Work Group Emotional Intelligence Profile
The second measure consists of two scales, each with its own additional subscales:
Ability to Deal with Own Emotions
Ability to Deal with Others' Emotions
These scales offer a self-report assessment based on 30 items to help measure emotional intelligence in team members.
How to increase your emotional intelligence
So, what can we do to build EI in the workplace? It requires time, effort and patience, but the tips and practices below can help you to become more emotionally intelligent in your interactions with others.
Becoming more self-aware:
Building internal motivation:
Becoming more empathetic:
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Improving your social skills:
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