What qualities make inspired leaders?

Their insight and ideas? Their problem-solving skills? Their vision?

When we attempt to explain why great leaders are so effective, these qualities may be mentioned. But another approach to evaluating leadership has gained traction in recent years and is worth examining. Here it is in a nutshell:

Great leadership comes from your ability to recognize and understand emotions.

This statement is the foundation underpinning the concept of Emotional Intelligence (also referred to as EI). Emotional Intelligence was first popularized by psychologist and former New York Times science reporter Daniel Goleman in his landmark 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ. Goleman recognized that for leaders, EI is essential for success. He identified five components or pillars that are critical to Emotional Intelligence:

  • Self-awareness. The ability to recognize and understand your emotions and their effect on others.
  • Self-regulation. The ability to stay in control and having the ability to think before acting. Leaders who exercise restraint and self-regulation are less likely to make rushed or emotional decisions or lash out at others.
  • Motivation. A passion to work, having high standards for that work, and pursuing goals with energy and persistence.
  • Empathy. The ability to understand how others are feeling. This critical skill goes beyond merely recognition, but also requires leaders to understand the power dynamics that can influence relationships in workplace settings.
  • Social skills. The ability to interact well with others. Those with this skill can apply this in a professional setting by being able to build relationships and connections with employees and co-workers. Social skills may include active listening, verbal and nonverbal communication skills and persuasiveness.

In many ways, leaders are responsible for setting the emotional state of the entire organization. Leaders who set poor examples of how they treat other people can create a culture with poor morale. This in turn can lead to low employee engagement or high turnover. At the same time, hiring new team members with strong emotional intelligence skills can lead to better workplace interactions, improved client relations, and a more welcoming and accepting company culture.

A recent study at a healthcare company showed that emotionally intelligent employees spoke up more often and more effectively. When colleagues were treated unjustly, they felt the righteous indignation to speak up, but were able to keep their anger in check and reason with their colleagues.

Organizations that put a premium on Emotional Intelligence skills collaborate more effectively, are more productive and have a more enjoyable workplace culture. So how can you improve your EI competency? A few simple strategies include:

  • Observing how you react to others and committing to being more open and accepting of the perspectives of others.
  • Engaging in self-evaluation to identify your weaknesses.
  • Examining how your actions will affect others before taking those actions and putting yourself in the shoes of others to fully understand the consequences of those actions.
  • Noticing the build-up of emotions and recognizing recurring patterns.

There are also diagnostic tools that can help you get a firmer grip on your emotional intelligence competency. These may include a 360-degree feedback process, which allows you to get an honest perspective from your team and can help identify problem areas.

Personality assessments like a DiSC profile or Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) are also excellent tools for increasing self-awareness. Both tools provides an objective analysis of your innate behavioral style. A personality assessment can help you better understand what makes you tick, what gives you energy and what drains your energy. It can also help you adapt your approaches to different work situations.

The right leadership, culture, and people are the source of strength for high-performing organizations. Align provides customized training and team development options, including 360-degree assessments and personality assessments. Contact us to learn more about how we can help your organization achieve excellence.

–The Align Team