Leadership is changing, growing, and diversifying. In this shifting landscape, there is one trait that is becoming ever more critical in distinguishing good leaders from great ones. Emotional Intelligence (later in the article referred to as EI) makes successful leaders stand out from the crowd and is something that women have in natural abundance.
At times it is easy to ignore the importance of EI and concentrate on the technical skills that leaders possess, but without EI, you will fail at collaboration, giving and receiving feedback, and developing teams.As leaders, we must embrace our need to analyse ourselves and develop our EI. Without this reflection, we will eventually plateau and become stagnant in our leadership ability.
Here are five ways Emotional Intelligence helps in making a great leader an exceptional one.
1. Self Awareness
EI makes us more aware of our own emotions and how they affect and interact with our performance. Being more aware of how certain people or ideas make you feel helps you follow your intuition. If a potential new hire is sitting in front of you and looks great on paper, but something about them just doesn’t feel right, trusting in your emotional awareness might save you from months of frustration down the line.
Of course, as recruiters, we completely reject the idea of hiring based on a gut feeling. However, if your gut is alluding to a certain direction then follow-up with a deeper line of questioning to get to the bottom of it.Being self-aware means asking for feedback from everyone around you and improving upon certain areas. It also means being conscious of your magic and strengths and then doubling down on this.
2. Managing Stress
We are all too familiar with the intensity of the startup scene, early mornings and late nights are not unusual. As company shapers, we are often spinning many plates at once, this can be overwhelming at times. Being more emotionally aware makes it easier to notice when stress starts setting in, both in yourself and in the office. Stress can be extremely infectious and spreads like wildfire, making it that much more important to manage.
EI helps in monitoring stress, allowing you to manage the source and the symptoms before they start to affect performance. As a leader, it is your job to both remain cool and collected and keep your company’s stress down to a minimum through collaboration, feedback, exercise, and healthy nutrition in the office. As leaders, we have the power to alter the collective state of stress.
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A boss is not the same as a leader and emotional intelligence is one of the key factors in separating the two. People want to get behind a leader and follow them, they trust them, believe in them and want to help achieve their mission. A boss, on the other hand, is simply obeyed, people follow their orders but not in their footsteps.
A huge part of being an exceptional leader is revealing one’s vulnerability, a distinguishing factor between a boss and a leader. A boss might guard themselves against their team, but a true leader allows their weakness to be shown. This is only something that can be discovered through experience. So if you are a leader questioning showing your vulnerability, why not put it out there and see what kind of reaction you get. I can almost guarantee it will cement working relationships.
4. Healthy Conflict Resolution
Conflict can be great if dealt with properly. Embracing the tension between your team will only enhance a better working-relationship. Settling disagreements in emotionally intelligent ways actually helps to strengthen bonds and build trust, bringing you and your team closer together.
Healthy conflict resolution also creates an atmosphere in which it’s ok to disagree with the leader. In fact, as a leader, you should be asking What’s wrong with this idea? This creates a diversity of opinion, which is invaluable if you want to see the bigger picture and make better judgement calls. You should be encouraging your team to challenge you in a healthy way, at all times. Bosses who always know what's best and stamp out dissenting opinions have a narrow view of what's really going on, limiting their ability to make well-informed decisions and discouraging a healthy environment for contrasting ideas.
Having a diversity of viewpoints helps you make better decisions, making you a better leader, but conflict resolution is just one aspect of that. Your ability to listen is key.
5. Really Listening
If there was just one thing on the list this would be it. In a way Really Listening is what underlies all of the points above. This works two-fold. Being able to identify your clients’ needs through listening will help you ask the right questions helping you serve them better. In just the same way listening to the needs of your team helps create more trust.
Listening improves your judgement. When you are really hearing what is being said, not just what you want to hear, you gain a broader perspective on the situation. Really listening also lets you focus on the nonverbal cues that make up so much of our real-world communication. Sometimes what is not being said is just as important as what is.
It strengthens the team. Being fully present and really listening to other people forges bonds by letting them feel heard and building trust. Strengthening relationships between you and your team members is key to being a great leader.
Emotional intelligence is more and more being considered a greater marker for success than IQ scores. Being in touch with yourself and the people around you is often far more important than being able to solve abstract problems.
However, not all of us are blessed with high levels of emotional intelligence, if you think you have some room for improvement, fear not! EI is actually something you can get better at with practice. As a leader, it is your job to ask for feedback from your team in order to identify in which areas you can improve your EI.
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