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Dr. Robert Tett, author of the Multidimensional Emotional Intelligence Assessment (MEIA), is featured in a series of videos to explain emotional intelligence (EI).
Leadership means getting a group of people to set aside their own personal objectives to pursue shared goals. It’s especially important when things get tough. Whether it’s an urgent deadline on an important project requiring everyone to stay late. Or maybe an individual team member has lost focus or drive. Good leadership keeps everything and everyone on track and moving forward. It’s especially critical in times of crisis.
EI contributes to leadership in several ways.
First there is recognizing and managing ones own emotions. An effective leader needs to know when he or she is feeling nervous, angry, disappointed, frustrated, proud, or sympathetic. And then regulate those feelings to best meet the demands of the team. Identifying those feelings in the moment is important because it allows the leader to consider whether they are appropriate for the situation, and whether they signal something that needs to be dealt with. Flying off the handle is rarely effective. And the leader that can see or feel it coming on stands a better chance of controlling and channeling that energy in a more productive direction.
A second way that EI is important in leadership is in seeing and managing the emotions of other people. This lies at the heart of effective leadership. Getting different people with their own agendas to choose the same path often requires emotional adjustments. For some it’s a tweak. For others it’s an overhaul. But either way, a good leader reads how individual’s in the entire team are feeling. Often based on subtle cues and interactions. And finds a way to inspire productive cooperation. Emotional intelligence is absolutely critical for this. And so it’s absolutely critical for leadership.
A third role for EI in leadership is in showing compassion for workers fates and needs. There is a time and place for everything, and tough-minded leadership is sometimes the only way to go. More often though, effective leadership is achieved by showing workers that you care about them. This builds cooperation and trust which are key features of a productive team. Not all workers will reciprocate the warmth or pass it to their teammates. But showing you understand the workers’ feelings and their situation–whether it’s about work, home, or anything in between–can go a long way to winning their commitment to achieving the team’s goals.
Leaders high in EI show empathy when they need to. Beyond that, being able and willing to put yourself in other people’s shoes is a great way to recognize what it will take to get them motivated.
A fourth role for EI in leadership is through emotional expression. This is related to emotional self-control, but it really means the outward expression of behavior. Emotional control happens more on the inside. Expression is about what other people see. Leadership is by its nature highly visible. Being in the spotlight is part of most leaders’ jobs. A good leader behaves in a way others will respond to positively–toward getting things done both individually and collectively. This usually means showing enthusiasm and optimism especially like I said earlier, when the going gets tough. But it can also include pride, disappointment, compassion, and anger. Especially if directed at the competition.
Workers look to their leader for motivation, and leaders provide that motivation. In large part through emotional expression. You have to balance that with emotional control. Keeping a lid on counterproductive outbursts but displaying cues others will respond to in a positive way.
These four areas: dealing with emotions in the self, dealing with emotions in others, empathy, and emotional expression are keys to effective leadership. Related skills and propensities include using emotions to be creative, to guide intuition on balance with logical thinking, to learn from past mistakes, and to maintain positive thinking. All these things are at the core of EI or closely related. And they are also part of being an effective leader hence the importance of EI in leadership.
Click here to learn more about the Multidimensional Emotional Intelligence Assessment for Workplace (MEIA-W).