Developing Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

Emotional intelligence is a key quality that many leaders in the workplace lack. Emotional intelligence is defined as "the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups" (Goleman). It helps people communicate more effectively with one another by understanding what other people are feeling. However, developing leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence is no simple task, and therefore many organizations simply overlook its importance - and the workplace suffers.

Emotionally intelligent people are better at building relationships because they can read body language cues or facial expressions to understand how someone else feels. The benefits go both ways: emotionally intelligent people have fewer quarrels with their co-workers while also being able to resolve issues more quickly when they arise.

Finally, emotional intelligence helps teams thrive because it encourages building trust among team members who know that everyone understands each other's feelings on an issue without having to spell it out. This is an inherent part of effective communication, which is necessary for any team to be successful.

What Is Emotional Intelligence

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the capacity to understand and manage emotions, both your own and other people's. It includes skills such as empathy, interpersonal skill, self-awareness, emotional regulation, resilience, and impulse control. 

People with higher levels of emotional intelligence are more perceptive, responsive, aware, sensitive to the subtleties of emotion seen in themselves and others, and able to regulate their own behavior accordingly. These people also have patience with others' faults because they understand that we all make mistakes.

Emotional intelligence is distinguished from other forms of intelligence by including self-awareness of one's own feelings and self control in the process of understanding others' emotions. Simon Baron–Cohen (1999) described two different types of empathy: cognitive and affective.

Why Emotional Intelligence is Important

There are many reasons why your leaders need emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence also underpins good leadership qualities like motivation and positive relationships with others. It has been shown that leaders who have high levels of emotional intelligence perform better at their jobs. For example, a study from the University of New Hampshire showed that emotional intelligence was a significant predictor of leader performance and effectiveness, accounting for as much as 70% of a leader's job success.

Effective leaders who have tuned in to their own emotions and the emotions of others have higher rates of engagement with their team members. In turn, this makes them more productive, innovative, and creative in delivering results to the business they lead. When these people are also good communicators it brings about strong relationships with happy employees who can relate well to their managers' vision for where the business needs to go next. That helps everyone to work together to reach agreed-on goals and promises more cohesive supportive teams.

Leaders with emotional intelligence are focused on building positive relationships with their employees while fostering a healthy work environment which promotes creativity, collaboration, innovation and productivity. They also tend to have high self-awareness skills as well as self-regulation skills which make them able to manage their own emotions in difficult situations or when under stress from others at work or home life. This enables them to be kinder and more compassionate in their leadership, which promotes greater engagement from team members. When this is done properly it creates a mutually beneficial relationship where the employer gets more out of the employee because they are happier, while they also get more out of the employees they support.

Emotionally Intelligent Leaders Benefit Employees

Benefits For Employees

Leaders are encouraged to recognize when others might be feeling a certain way but often don't understand why they're acting in ways that can be disruptive or problematic. The leader plays an important role in promoting team building through rapport and trust which is part of what makes them successful at their jobs. Building emotional intelligence also focuses on how employees can effectively communicate with each other by using empathetic responses and self-awareness skills which help them manage their own emotions in a positive way while dealing with difficult situations. It's not always easy to develop emotion intelligence, but it is possible once people learn where they need to improve (i.e., self-awareness).

In addition to learning how to communicate with each other better, it's also a goal for employees to learn more about themselves and their unique strengths. This way, management can have a greater understanding of what motivates certain employees and where they might need support in their personal lives which will cause them to be more productive at work. By improving communication between employers and employees, there is a shared benefit of mutual respect while still allowing the employer to conduct business in an efficient manner so more projects get done on time and within budget. 

How To Develop High Emotional Intelligence

It will take time and practice for leaders to develop their emotional intelligence skills. Techniques that are being used for this work include role-playing exercises where employees can break out into small groups and learn how to apply these new tools and strategies. They may also take the time to watch videotapes or listen to audio recordings of other leaders who have come before them and learned how to hone their skills which they then share through presentations or one-on-one mentoring sessions. Here are a few more opportunities to grow in this area:

- Leaders may benefit from talking about the best ways they have found to express emotions in a healthy way. For example, if a leader tends to get very angry and yell at people when he gets upset, he or she could brainstorm with co-workers about what that situation might look like and how they would react differently next time. They can practice ways to remain calm even when in an emotional state.

- Sometimes one person on a team needs to develop their emotional intelligence skills so they can build stronger relationships with their teammates. Initiating conversations about how everyone manages their emotions is an important step in this process.

- Another way to grow is by learning what the different emotional expressions look like so they can be more aware of them when they happen. For example, anger looks very different on someone's face than fear does. When leaders are better informed about how people feel by being able to recognize facial expressions or body language during any type of emotional state, it will build trust with co-workers because they know that their leader cares enough to notice and understand them.

Emotional intelligence training for leaders benefits companies by producing employees who are more productive both individually and as a team. Effective communication is essential for any successful business; an emotionally intelligent leader can help provide the best possible atmosphere within the office environment for everyone involved.

emotional intelligence

The Importance of Empathy as an Effective Leadership Skill 

Empathy is another fundamental component of emotional intelligence that enables you to see things from other people's perspective - putting yourself into someone else’s shoes, and understanding and effectively responding to the emotional needs of other people. Today, an effective leader should strive to use empathy as a key component of their motivational strategy

Empathy will allow you to better understand and respond to another person's behavior, words or body language, which can often be very subtle. Empathy may also help you avoid the communication barriers that continue to grow between generations in today’s workplace. Transparency is another aspect of leading with empathy, where leaders understand the importance of being authentic, reliable, and honest in all of their duties. 

For example, young employees such as Millennials (born 1980-2000) will typically prefer texting over talking on the phone because verbal communication does not come as naturally for them. They require more time than older workers when building trust and rapport while communicating verbally with someone face-to-face, and they may even discount a manager’s advice because it is not based on personal experience ("Well I don't know how it feels, I haven't walked in your shoes!").

However, these same Millennial employees will often choose to collaborate with you over anybody else because you are willing to be open and honest about what they can expect from the work environment. This occurs partly because of their natural craving for feedback, but mostly because you empathize with their needs (for example - You may say, "I know it might be frustrating not knowing if there is a job opportunity available at this time." or “When I first started working here X years ago…”). 

The Benefits of Having Emotionally Intelligent Leadership in the Workplace

The benefits of having leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence in your workplace include:

  • increased productivity
  • decreased employee turnover rates
  • improved customer satisfaction
  • higher morale among employees
  • reduced conflict levels within organizations
  • better decision-making processes for management teams

Emotional intelligent leaders encourage people and motivate their employees to deliver excellence job performance by understanding what drives them and how they best work. Leadership is not about hierarchy; it's about encouraging everyone in the team to aim for the same objectives and by doing this increasing productivity and innovation and ultimately increasing profitability. An emotionally intelligent leader inspires mutual trust between themselves and others which is one of the pre-requisites of becoming an authentic leader as opposed to just executing orders from above. They create an environment where morale is high, engagement with the company vision is strong, creativity flourishes, loyalty thrives as well as efficiency, productivity and profitability.

What Does an Emotionally Intelligent Leader Look Like?

The following skills and abilities are most commonly associated with high levels of emotional intelligence: Empathy, Inspiration & Motivation, Self-Awareness, and Resilience.

  1. Empathy is the ability to understand the emotional make up of other people and how they feel about a subject or issue. Leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence demonstrate this by being able to put themselves into someone else's shoes in order to understand where they are coming from and what their perspective might be. They will also pick up on subtle clues that indicate how others feel without these having to be explicitly expressed.
  2. They inspire others through their vision while motivating them to take part in realizing that vision; this is done by articulating their vision in such a way that it captures people's imagination and their passion. Leaders with high emotional intelligence demonstrate this by having the ability to 'see' what might be possible and communicate it in a way which motivates others to take part in realizing that vision. They recognize the importance of creating a shared vision within an organization and put processes in place for gaining feedback from employees so as to understand where they are coming from; this enables them to modify their visions accordingly.
  3. Self-Awareness is the quality of being aware of your own emotional intelligence and how these influence thoughts and behavior; this means that emotionally intelligent leaders will not make important decisions when angry or upset, for example. It also means that they can regulate their emotions effectively; this is particularly important as emotions influence the way we think and behave and, if left unchecked, can cloud judgement and damage relationships.
  4. They are resilient: they do not allow negative past experiences to affect their thinking or behavior in a detrimental way; this enables them to learn from both positive and negative life experiences without allowing either of these to hold them back.

Leaders who have low emotional intelligence lack self-awareness as well as empathy with others meaning that they often miss subtle social cues which indicate how others might be feeling. As a result, emotionally unintelligent leaders tend to find it difficult to motivate those below them in an organization meaning that they can become isolated from those around them meaning that there is a limit on the extent to which a leader with low emotional intelligence can develop other aspects of their leadership, like self-awareness and self-control.

It can be difficult for an emotionally unintelligent leader to grow as they remain stuck in the same patterns of behavior meaning that emotionally intelligent individuals are far more likely to have successful careers which are fulfilling both personally and professionally.

Emotional Intelligence Training for Leaders

Since companies are most interested in developing leaders who can create better relationships with customers and build cohesive teams that are willing to work hard for each other, they look to provide opportunities through training seminars or webinars. It's important that those in a leadership position already have high self-regulation skills when it comes to their own emotions, but there are many ways that coaches are helping enhance emotional intelligence related to one's ability to accurately read different situations, discern between the feelings of themselves and others, see problems in a different way, exemplify stress management and decision-making skills, communication with empathy, etc.

A Better Leader offers first-class leadership training on many skills - including emotional intelligence for leaders! If you're looking to train your leaders on executive leadership skills such as emotional intelligence, hit the button below. Our reps are standing by to help you in your journey of creating better leaders and cultivating a happy and successful work environment. 

Leadership Development Training Drift Chat


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About the Author Jennifer Orechwa

With over 25 years in the industry, and now as IRI's Director of Business Development, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a culture of engagement. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.

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