Emotional Intelligence as a Key Value in Leadership

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DEFINITION: Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize one’s own and other peoples’ emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.

executive-leaderThis may sound simple, and yet many people are not only unaware of the emotions they exhibit but are unable to recognize other peoples’ emotions. On the TV Show “The Big Bang Theory,” the character Sheldon is just such a person – unable to recognize a person with hurt feelings, depressed, frustrated, disgusted, confused, etc. They do not know how to identify specific facial expressions, other body languages in order to empathize or react appropriately. They can try to identify but often get confused about the difference between one emotional response versus another. For example, is someone angry or disappointed, sad or grumpy?

However, in business, it can be a real problem if a person is lacking “emotional intelligence.” It is important to respond in a professional manner to the emotion that is being expressed by a colleague or customer. To confuse the emotions could be embarrassing and awkward, to say the least.

If someone is sad and upset by a loss or a problem with a client, others would be expected to provide encouragement or support. Emotional Intelligence plays a huge role “communication.” Many businesses comment on what “poor communication” they have, though it has never been mentioned if “emotional intelligence” is a contributing factor.

Since “Communication” is so critical in business and in life, it is clear that our leaders must possess “emotional intelligence.” Traits of an effective leader include one who is successful in building good relationships. If a person cannot read or identify others’ feelings or emotions, it would be hard to relate to that person. Leaders are expected to be insightful and wise, but without “emotional intelligence,” how can they respond effectively? Possessing “emotional intelligence” helps a leader to express constructive information to a subordinate, who can use this to improve their performance.

Emotional Intelligence is comprised of a set of skills, which include control of one’s impulses, self-motivation, empathy, and social competence in interpersonal relationships. With these abilities, a person can better build, motivate or inspire others, which leaders are expected to do.

Four aspects to Emotional Intelligence include:

  1. Perceiving Emotions: Recognizing and understanding non-verbal emotions or signals such as facial expressions or body language.
  2. Reasoning with Emotions: Using emotions to start a thought process or brain activity. These emotions help us to prioritize attention and reaction.
  3. Understanding Emotions: As we perceive emotions, these should be examined as to what is the cause. Interpreting the cause helps to determine how to respond appropriately.
  4. Managing Emotions: Once you understand the emotions of the other person and identify the cause, “managing emotions” is the process of how to respond appropriately. Learning how to do this positions you to be an effective leader.

Coaching future leaders to utilize their Emotional Intelligence would be very wise and beneficial. It would strengthen their abilities to be more effective when working with people.

Robyn Crigger is Managing Partner, OI Global Partners – Compass Career Management Solutions in Charlotte, NC. Trained and experienced in various Human Resources areas from assessments to executive coaching, Robyn strives to provide professional assistance to both companies and individuals faced with transitions.

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