Emotional Intelligence and Leadership: Two Peas in a Pod

Posted by Bridget Beirne
October 16, 2015


Peanut butter and jelly. Love and marriage. Starsky and Hutch. All of those things, while great on their own, become fantastic when combined with their respective partner. Emotional intelligence and leadership work the same way, like two peas in a pod. Both are important factors on their own. Bring them together, and you've got the makings of an exceptional professional. 

Emotionally intelligent leaders lead with empathy, awareness, and understanding; as a result, they foster an environment of collaboration and shared success. If you don't feel confident in your EI skills — or you're not 100% sold on their importance —  here are some leadership challenges that can be greatly helped (and maybe even overcome!)  with strong emotional intelligence skills. 

1. Your team would rather walk on glass than communicate with you: This could definitely be an "it's not you, it's me" situation. One of the major principles of emotional intelligence is self-awareness and, in this instance, a little goes a long way. Just because you happen to be "the leader" in name doesn't mean you're absolved from checking in about your own behaviors and actions. Obviously, it's nearly impossible to get things accomplished when there is an overall disconnect between leader and team.

  • What to do? This is challenging, because you're going to have to look objectively at your own behavior. Start keeping notes about day-to-day interactions with team members, and review the outcomes. In each situation ask, "What could I have done better?" and be honest with yourself. This simple exercise is a small first step on the path to becoming more self-aware. 

2. You've lost business opportunities or relationships because of your hot-headed emotional intelligence and leadershipdemeanor: Passion and excitement about one's work are enviable traits. However, no one wants to work with someone who is perpetually flying off the handle (even if it's in a good way!). Leaders need to be steady and consistent in a storm, as well as reliable in the face of victory. Keeping your emotions in check — especially when it's incredibly difficult to do so — is necessary to build a team that trusts the captain at the helm.

  • What to do? The practice of self-management is the natural follow-up to your self-awareness activities. If you've developed your self-awareness to the point where you can recognize your tendency to scream and throw your laptop in the face of bad news, good for you. (And also, yikes!) Now you've got to do something about it. Try to embrace the power of pause, or if possible take a small break, in the face of emotionally-riling news: "This is a very unexpected development, and one that it is going to take me some time and thought to deal with. Can we take a small break to clear our heads before we continue?" **Note: Does this mean you should dull out any emotional response like some kind of robot? Absolutely not. But it DOES mean that you shouldn't let your feelings overtake your professional behavior.**

3. You're perfect for certain positions on paper, and yet you get passed over for them time and time again: It's no longer any secret that EQ (your Emotional Quotient) has proved to be as important as IQ in the business world. When it comes to job seekers or even emerging leaders looking for advancement within their companies, decision makers want more in a leader than simply being smart or capable. And sure, lots of factors go into hiring. But if you've got everything from a great job history to the perfect degree and yet you're still struggling to shine as a leader, it may be worth your time to look at your EI.

  • What to do? Set up a mock interview with a friend, colleague, or trusted business advisor. You may not realize that something about your interactions broadcasts a lack of emotional intelligence. Ask for feedback. Were there any responses that stood out as disproportionate? Are your listening skills up to snuff? Did you make choices to build the relationship, every time? Your EI skills may be what you're lacking.

Emotional intelligence and leadership. As the song says, "You can't have one without the other!" Or, at the very least, you shouldn't. Work on your skills so that they arise together like two peas in a pod. Your team will thank you.


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