As a boss, you’re already in the captain’s seat, so why should you worry about how tuned in you are to the feelings of those around you?
You don't - unless you want to generate loyalty, esteem, and engagement in your employees. Emotionally intelligent leaders inspire and guide others to achieve their potentials, creating commitment to shared goals. But not everyone comes by emotional intelligence naturally; many of us have to learn it, through practice. Here are five tips to help you raise your EI and make you a leader others will want to follow:
KNOW YOURSELF: As Anaïs Nin said, “We don’t see the world as it is. We see it as we are.” You are never able to see what’s really going on in the present if your emotions or patterns of behaviour are stuck in the past. You can use emotional intelligence to understand your own behaviour; the emotional impulses behind all your actions and decisions and how you react in various situations you’re faced with. That way, you’re able to apply behavioural changes and control your responses, which will make you a more effective leader. That isn’t always easy; the rollercoaster ride in the business world today naturally creates rollercoaster emotions, but succumbing to negative emotions means wasting valuable emotional energy.
SHUT UP AND LISTEN: Pay attention: If you can clear your mind and look at things in a nonjudgmental way, you can experience social awareness. This is about being attuned to other people’s emotions and concerns, as well as being able to notice and adapt to social cues. You will be open to and aware of the subtler power dynamics at play within any group or organizational context.
FACE THE FEAR: People who master their emotions can use what I call anticipatory fear to prepare for challenges, by anticipating fear before it happens in order to better prepare for its impact on you. The payoff is not unlike what a pilot gets from practicing with a simulator: it makes you more nimble, less paralyzed when an actual emergency arises; it makes your response time quicker, and helps you to react productively.
FEED FELLOW FEELINGS: Empathy develops from self-knowledge. The more open we are to our own emotions, the better we can interpret the feelings of others. If we are empathetic, we have an instinctive eye for the subtle kinds of social signals that indicate what others need or want, what are they are thinking and how they’re reacting. We’re able to provide feedback to them in a way that encourages and aligns them with us in moving toward a common goal.
REMEMBER – IT’S CATCHING: We are constantly sending emotional signals. The signals that we, as leaders, send have a great impact on the people around us. Words like ‘charismatic’ or ‘charming’ are two descriptors we would be likely to use for people that we like to have around us. The reason we want them around us is because their emotional skills make us feel good. If we feel good, we become more productive. We are happier. We anticipate pleasurable interactions and are not living in constant fear in terms of what emotional blow-up there might be on the horizon.
Emotional intelligence is vital in terms of deployment, whether we’re talking about war or leading an organization. Emotional intelligence will help you to guide your team safely through change, in the same way it would guide an officer in deploying a soldier through unfamiliar terrain.