While good leadership is often thought of in terms of things like confidence, integrity and passion, experts say executives can enhance their leadership skills by focusing on their “emotional intelligence.” By better understanding their own emotions, learning to control them, and attaining greater empathy, executives can more effectively lead their organizations.
Daniel Goleman, co-director of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations at Rutgers University, has said that there are four domains of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Within these domains are 12 competencies—learnable capabilities that will allow leaders to excel. Goleman said any type of leader can further enhance their skills by developing their emotional intelligence.
“Even people with many apparent leadership strengths can stand to better understand those areas of RI where we have room to grow,” said Goleman.
Thomas Buus Madsen, COO and founder of BookBoon.com, said that emotional leadership is the “secret sauce” that makes a good leader. He said that emotional intelligence is important for being able to control emotions, because it requires a high degree of self-awareness. He said leaders need the ability to look at their actions and words from an outside perspective and see how they impact other people.
Madsen further added that emotional intelligence can be learned by engaging in three primary behaviors. This includes recognizing and deciphering verbal and nonverbal clues and then responding adequately. This will help support professional development, which will lead to more engagement and higher productivity as a leader. “Good leadership is about connecting to your direct reports, about understanding their motivations, aspirations, interests and fears,” Madsen said.
Brent Gleeson, keynote speaker and leadership coach, adds that leaders need to learn to be emotionally independent and to connect to core emotions, accept them and be aware of how they affect their decisions and actions. He said a leader lacking in emotional intelligence is not able to effectively gauge the needs, wants and expectations of those they lead. “Good leaders must be self-aware and understand how their verbal and nonverbal communication can affect the team,” said Gleeson.
He adds that leaders should start with a self-assessment of their own emotions, strengths and weaknesses, and how they impact others. They should also work on discipline and redirecting their disruptive emotions and adapting to change circumstances to keep the team moving in a positive direction. Good leaders also should work on enhancing their empathy, as the more they can relate to others, the better they will become at understanding what motivates or upsets them. He also stresses relationship management and effective communication.
“Emotional intelligence is a powerful tool critical for exceeding goals, improving critical work relationships, and creating a healthy, productive workplace and organizational culture,” Gleeson said.