Emotional intelligence can be defined, simplistically, as being aware of one’s own emotional reactions to situations and having the ability to recognise and understand those emotions in order to react more effectively in any given situation.Less simplistically, according to the 2009 Dictionary of Psychology, emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour.
Psychologist David Goleman was the first to establish the importance of emotional intelligence to business leadership. He then goes on to introduce five components of emotional intelligence
- Self awareness- the ability to recognise and understand your own moods and motivations and their affect on others.
- Self regulation- the ability to control your impulses and express yourself appropriate
- Motivation- passion for work which goes beyond money and status
- Empathy for others- the ability to understand another person’s emotional reaction. This is only possible once you have achieved self awareness- as you cannot understand others unless you understand yourself
- Social skills- the ability to identify social cues to establish common ground, manage relationships and build networks
Why it’s important
Goleman findings saw a correlation between a high level of emotional intelligence and effective leadership. For him, a person could have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind and an endless supply of smart ideas but they still won’t make a great leader if they aren’t emotionally intelligent.
Understanding the emotional aspect of human interactions can help reduce misunderstandings in the workplace and build more cohesive teams. Being emotionally intelligent gives people the ability to manage relationships, navigate social networks, communicate and interact effectively as well as influence and inspire others. In today’s workplace it has become a highly important factor for success influencing productivity, efficiency and team collaboration.
Leaders with emotional intelligence are also better equipped to handle conflicts and provide resolution. Conflict can threaten efficiency and productivity- and the ability to placate any disagreements that arise between employees, customers and other parties can lead to a more effective workplace.
Benefits of emotionally intelligent leadership
Goleman found direct ties between emotional intelligence and measurable business results.
Emotionally intelligent people are an asset to the workplace as they can:
- Successfully manage difficult situations
- Express themselves clearly
- Gain respect from others
- Influence other people
- Entice other people to help them out
- Keep cool under pressure
- Know how to say the “right” thing to get the right result
- Manage themselves effectively when negotiating
- Manage other people effectively when negotiating
- Motivate themselves to get things done
- Know how to be positive even during difficult situations
Emotional intelligence isn’t the only way to attain success as a leader and a HBR article by John Mayer points out that a leader can hire and retain talented employees even if he or she doesn’t have a strong personal connection with them. That said building and maintaining those strong connections and relationships is a safer bet than ignoring them.