Leadership development has increasingly become a priority as organizations look internally for new leaders, as organizations turn to flatter hierarchies and more people must step up to be leaders, and quality leadership is increasingly linked to improved team performance. Good leaders have to manage teams, regulate emotions, communicate with different types of people, and motivate others through quality and tactful leadership.
Emotional and social intelligence are not the only skills leaders must have, but businesses have recognized their importance since Daniel Goleman coined the term in the 90s. Understanding what emotional intelligence is, how to coach it, and where it impacts business results will help your organization to recognize and develop better leaders.
This article utilizes the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model developed by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis. This model defines emotional and social intelligence based on their abilities to recognize, understand, and use social and emotional information.
Most people would say they are self-aware. Most people would be wrong. In fact 95% of people answer surveys claiming to be self-aware. Yet, only 10-15% can answer questions in ways that show they actually are. Research by psychologist Tascha Eurich shows that lack of self-awareness in team members and leaders decreases motivation, increases stress, and reduces work productivity.
Fostering self-awareness is difficult, largely because it depends on the ego (sense of self), humility, and the ability to step away from idealizing the self or self-delusion. This means recognizing strengths and weaknesses, recognize how your emotions and actions impact team productivity, and gain real insight into what you are doing and why.
Coaching this behavior typically involves asking leaders to journal, use emotional journaling, to schedule sessions for reflection, and to discuss responses and behavior with their peers.
A good leader should be able to:
- Step back and acknowledge they took the wrong action (and correct it)
- Admit they are wrong to their team
- Acknowledge their weaknesses and make plans to improve or correct them
- Acknowledge learning is an ongoing process and they will never be done
When a leader practices self-awareness, they make themselves vulnerable to their team, show they are willing to learn, and build trust with their team.
Self-regulation is a critical skill for any leader because it will affect how they are respected, team motivation, team happiness, and culture. Self-regulation is about staying in control of emotions, so that they do not respond with anger, verbally abuse others, stereotype others, make emotional decisions, make decisions out of stress, or otherwise lose emotional control in professional settings.
Some people link self-regulation with maintaining a positive outlook, but it’s more often about remaining calm and waiting to react until they’ve had time to think and review options and information.
Many people will simply respond to things. This can result in very bad reactions and responses. A few angry words can completely demoralize a team, cause someone to quit, end a project. A few well considered words can achieve the opposite.
Coaching leaders into self-regulation can pay off in more ways than once. While this can be difficult because it depends on where the individual is starting from good coaching often incorporates:
- Considering Values – What are the individual’s values? Why do they value them? How do they uphold them? What’s important and why not? Asking people to actively think about their values and their code of ethics will get them to think about how their behavior aligns with their values, which can help a coach to teach skills they need.
- Accountability – Good leaders have to take accountability for their own actions. If they can’t control a quick outburst, it’s important to immediately recognize this was problematic and to apologize for it. Taking responsibility for lack of self-regulation is a critical skill, and it is one that can be taught.
- Calming Down – Skills like mindfulness are increasingly linked to emotional regulation, because it entails staying calm and living in the moment. Breathing exercises, meditation, and exercises centered on learning to let go of stress and stressful situations can be helpful. In most cases, the most important step is to coach individuals to a point where their first reaction to a stressful situation is to step back and take a deep breath and then respond after thinking about the situation.
Having leaders who can intelligently step back and make good and emotionally regulated decisions, even in situations that might normally result in anger, will increase team trust, team motivation, and the team’s ability to have conversations.
Social awareness, or empathy, is critical for any leader who wants to navigate the emotional and social needs of her team. Social awareness is the simple ability to understand what another is going through or likely going through, to make decisions based on that person’s likely emotional state, and to consider the emotional repercussions of actions when making decisions.
Leaders who strive to understand the emotions of their team are better able to build trust, motivate others, respond in ways that encourage loyalty, and in ways that drive engagement. Building these skills is about constantly working to understand how other people work and why, which often means understanding different personalities, understanding how emotions impact people, and being able to empathize with others. Studies by DDI show that empathy is the number one skill needed by leaders.
Coaching empathy is often about recognizing where and how individuals struggle to connect to others. It can mean asking questions about how another person might be feeling, about what their life at home might be like, and about what factors are being influenced in someone’s lives. It typically often involves teaching hard skills like perspective, body language, and responding to feelings.
Leaders must feel they have the freedom to respect emotions if they are to make decisions based on the emotional needs of their teams. So, if you want leaders to respond emotionally to their team, you need policies enabling flex work, loose deadlines, and structures built around personal freedom and creativity rather than rigid hierarchy and task lists.
Team leaders manage teams. A large part of that means managing interpersonal relationships inside that team, between the leader and individuals and between individuals. Good leaders listen empathetically, are open to hearing bad news, know how to get a team to support ideas, can resolve conflicts diplomatically, strive for improvement, and work to ensure everyone speaks up and is heard.
Good relationship management will build trust inside the team, but can also actively impact productivity through reducing wasted time on conflicts, increase job satisfaction, and reduce churn rate.
Coaching for positive relationship management includes teaching conflict resolution, helping leaders to review how they resolved conflicts and improve those reactions, improve communication skills, and learn to offer positive and negative criticism. Leaders must be able to recognize emotions in others and discuss them, which does start with doing so in themselves.
Good leadership means building a solid understanding of empathy and how social and emotional factors affect decisions, health, and productivity. People who understand how others interact and feel are able to make good decisions around those people, incorporating those aspects into decisions, and taking everyone into account. This will have a positive impact on team trust, team satisfaction, and productivity.