What makes a great leader?
Historically, great leaders have been defined by their ability to create and communicate a vision, strategise its achievement and successfully guide a team to their desired end goal. Often, such capabilities are credited to an individual’s IQ, with qualifications and experience acting as an indicator of someone’s suitability for a leadership role.
But, in today’s business landscape, traditional intelligence is not enough on its own. Our ways of working are changing, companies are transforming and the war on talent has never been more fierce. If a company aims to keep up with the demand these factors bring, it must ensure that those in roles of leadership are better equipped than ever.
Ranking sixth in the 2019 World Economic Forum’s list of the top 10 skills that employees need to possess to thrive in the workplace of the future, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is becoming increasingly recognised as an essential trait of an impactful leader. For years, “soft-skills” have often been dismissed as a “nice-to-have”, however research consistently shows that high levels of EQ can have a significant impact on a teams ability to succeed:
● EQ is significantly correlated with job performance, particularly the components of recognising and managing the emotions of the self and others. (Pekaar et al, 2017)
● 85–87% of our success accounts from soft skills, emotional intelligence, and personal skills, yet we only pay attention to them 10% of the time (Harvard, Stanford and The Carnegie Foundation)
● EQ training can boost employee productivity and result in better performance evaluations from management (Hosseinian et al, 2008)
So, What is Emotional Intelligence?
“Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth.” – J. Mayer & P. Salovey, 1997
Simplified, it is the ability to recognise and respond to the emotions of others while identifying and mastering your own.
In 2019, much of EQs application in the workplace is based upon five core components as outlined by American science journalist Daniel Goleman. When actioned, each component contributes to the creation of a leadership persona that not only knows how to interact with others to achieve results, but is able to reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses in order to ensure that they are always leading to the best of their ability.
Below are the five components and explore how they are demonstrated by emotionally intelligent leaders:
Five Characteristics of an Emotionally Intelligent Leader
A strong leader understands how their own emotions and drivers can impact their performance and interactions with others. Hallmarks of self-awareness include realistic-self assessment and the ability to monitor, identify and name one’s own emotional state. As one of the foundations of emotional intelligence, self-awareness also encompasses the ability have a strong sense of self-worth. It is essential that leaders be assertive and able to ‘tell it like it is’ and, when necessary, stand up for unpopular positions. Confidence and awareness of oneself makes this possible.
Self-regulation is the ability to think before acting and suspend judgement. It presents itself in leaders as the ability to recognise and control disruptive impulses and moods that may cloud their vital decision making abilities. Self-regulation also presents itself in having comfort in ambiguity and an openness to change. An effective leader is able to manage multiple demands on their time and energy, prioritise effectively and accept last-minute curve-balls when necessary. Leaders should also be flexible in how they see and understand multiple perspectives without bias which is critical for managing internal and external conflicts and ensuring the smooth running of a collaborative team.
3. Internal Motivation
Great leaders are not focused solely on the external rewards of money and status. Those who create a true impact are driven by internal motivations such as a curiosity for learning, helping others, or finding joy in doing the task at hand. Such motivation ensures that decisions are made for the benefit of themselves, their team and the business as a whole. Recognising the motivations of others is equally important here. A leader that knows what drives each individual will have greater success at “rallying the troops” during tough times.
Every employee requires a manager that acknowledges them as an individual. Understanding the emotions of others is particularly important for leaders in businesses that are undergoing a process of transformation. Resistance to change can occur for numerous reasons and an empathetic leader will be able to adapt his/her leadership strategy to address each of them. Displaying an ability to identify and empathise with other people’s points of view will also encourage team members to be open and share their genuine thoughts, feelings and ideas to create a culture of collaboration and innovation.
5. Social Skills:
It has been said repeatedly, but the fact still stands: people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. If a leader does not know how to interact with their peers and subordinates on a personal level, they will have little success in gaining their trust and respect. A proficiency in managing and building networks, finding common ground and building rapport is an absolutely essential set of skills for a leader to acquire. Socially skilled leaders are also able to communicate the importance of emotional intelligence amongst his/her team as they lead by example, demonstrating the rewards that can be gained in applying each of the five components throughout their working relationships.
How can Emotional Intelligence be Increased?
As the business landscape undergoes drastic transformations, there is a growing demand for leaders who demonstrate skills that go beyond the traditional criteria. In the words of Daniel Goleman, “in a high-IQ job pool, soft skills like discipline, drive and empathy mark those who emerge as outstanding.”
To learn how you can identify great leaders, or how existing leaders in your business can expand their own levels of emotional intelligence, ask about our range of manager fundamentals courses which have been designed to equip your staff with the skills to go beyond the status quo.