Want to become a stronger leader? It starts with you. More specifically, it starts by improving your emotional intelligence.
Despite some of my reactions, I am quite self-aware…I have a very high emotional intelligence AND I have a temper!
In many blogs, I’ve talked about times I blew my top.
I admit I’ve been an ass. The people around me deserved much more and much better.
The weird thing is I know that. I know when it’s happening. And I know I should never have put myself in the position of losing control.
But I’ve learned to manage myself by breaking contact when I feel my emotions starting to boil. I excuse myself and go for a walk or take a break to allow rationality and logic to take over. These lessons have all been part of the journey to improve my EQ. And it’s a path I want to share with you today.
What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence Quotient (EQ) is the ability to evaluate, control, and express your own emotions. It’s also the ability to assess the emotions of others.
You might think it is airy-fairy new-age management gobbledygook. After all, the term wasn’t coined until 1990.
But research has shown that EQ is more responsible for leadership success than high intelligence (IQ) scores.
A University of Pennsylvania study showed that leaders with average IQ and high emotional intelligence outperform those with high IQs but with low EQ 70% of the time.
It makes sense that high emotional intelligence is critical for a leader to be effective.
Effective leaders need to be able to identify and control their emotions. Otherwise, how will they make the right decisions for their organizations, take calculated risks, communicate effectively, and build relationships? Answer: They won’t.
They need to be able to understand the emotions of their team. That’s how they can inspire and drive them to success. But what can be done to improve your emotional intelligence so you can be a better leader at the same time?
3 steps for bolstering your emotional intelligence
The importance of EQ, particularly the components focused on self-awareness and self-regulation, is a simple, intentional process anyone can follow.
Here are the three steps you need to take to get started:
Think about a time you were in a contentious meeting.
Maybe you were trying to balance limited resources with competing priorities.
Or was an initiative in trouble and your team is trying to figure out what to do about it?
The meeting probably made you tense, anxious, maybe even irritated. These negative feelings cloud your judgment and negatively impact your behaviour.
When the leader is anxious or tense, that energy permeates throughout the team and stalls progress. It causes you to make decisions that might ease anxiety but don’t address the challenges at hand.
Every day we can feel the full range of emotions, from anger, happiness, loving, stressed, aggressive, etc.
So, next time you’re on this emotional rollercoaster, challenge yourself to stop. During this pause, take stock of what you’re doing and notice how you are presenting yourself.
By the way, maybe you’re on the other side of this token and you’re dealing with a boss who has low emotional intelligence. Check out How to Deal with A Boss with Zero Emotional Intelligence.
After you’ve noticed your own emotions and feelings, choose how you want to respond. And yes – you have a choice!
Are you becoming aggressive? Is that response working for you? If it is, then you may choose to continue. But if it’s not, figure out what would help.
Recall that contentious meeting?
Reacting with tension may not be helpful.
The team likely needed a calming presence that would allow the space to see possibilities rather than becoming mired in any negativity.
Whatever you choose, acknowledge that it is your choice.
Want to read more about not being an ass? Here are 7 steps to leading through a crisis.
Become what you’ve chosen, manage your emotions, and be the leader your people deserve.
If you’ve chosen to be peaceful, calm your mind. Slow your breathing. Relax your muscles.
Powerful? Stand up tall. Uncross your arms. Project your voice.
Whatever it is you’ve chosen to be, take the action you need to BE it.
Now, this doesn’t come naturally to most, like most worthy causes, it can mean some work. So take the time to practice until it becomes second nature.
Emotional intelligence for leaders
When you choose to behave peacefully in the midst of chaos people will begin to mirror you. As a leader, setting this positive example for your team will have a profound impact on the success of the organization.
Learn to recognize your own emotions and then decide what action you can take for the benefit of their team. This emotional intelligence will serve you not only in business but in every part of your life.
Thinking about moving your career to the next level? Don’t miss my 1-on-1 coaching services.
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This article was originally published on October 19, 2018, and has been updated.