Emotional intelligence is one of the most talked-about soft skills in HR today. While originally coined in 1964, Emotional Intelligence or EQ became popular in the 1994 business book of the same name by Daniel Goleman.
Today, EQ is offered as part of business development, leadership development, and communications in organizations and universities across the world. While it overlaps with IQ and other personality testing, EQ gives businesses a defined way to measure and train specific soft skills to improve interpersonal communication between individuals and groups.
That’s crucial for leaders, especially as more and more people move to remote work conditions, and establishing good communication becomes critical to not just high performance but good performance.
The following article covers 8 ways emotional intelligence impacts the quality of leadership.
Emotional intelligence was first fully defined in 1990 in an article; Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to the collection of abilities used to identify, understand, control, and assess the emotions of the self and others
This definition was further refined by Daniel Goleman in his book, where he broke “EI or EQ” into 5 measurable parts.
- Social awareness
- Relationship management
Essentially, emotionally intelligent leaders are able to recognize and assess the emotions and wellbeing of their team. They can further regulate their own communication to meet the needs of the individuals they are communicating with and for.
Over time, this improves the communication of the whole team, as the leader is able to facilitate and to create channels for effective communication.
Emotional intelligence impacts conflict resolution in much the same way as it affects interpersonal communication. An emotionally intelligent leader is able to recognize underlying problems, handle existing emotions with care, and to ask the individuals involved to do so as well.
This might involve recognizing why someone is actually upset (or thinking to ask) and creating a resolution process that leaves both parties feeling recognized.
For example, an emotionally intelligent response to conflict would be to:
- Stay calm
- Ask questions
- Make every party feel heard
- React to how others are feeling, not just what they are saying
- Working with both parties to create a long-term solution
Conflict resolution can vary a lot in organizations. Some have a simple policy of “don’t”, others have well-planned methodology for dealing with when teams disagree, or conflicts happen. Adding emotional intelligence, at any level, only smooths that process further.
Emotionally intelligent leaders respond to their teams and people as people. Rather than simply going off business needs, the emotionally intelligent leader responds to the needs of the individual at the moment to create the best outcome.
For example, if we take an example of someone being late for work…
Option A: Josh is 2 hours late for work. He rushes in and explains that his wife, who has been expecting, went into labor that morning and in the chaos, he forgot to call it in. David, his manager, is livid. The entire team was hung up on Josh, who was supposed to give a presentation that morning. He reprimands Josh and informs him it will go into his performance review coming up later that month. Josh goes back to work with negative feelings about his boss, his work, and his future with the company.
Option B: Josh is 2 hours late for work. When he explains, David, who has recently followed an Emotional Intelligence course, recognizes that Josh is excited, distracted, and had little control over the sudden turn in his life that morning. Guessing that Josh will be little able to focus or achieve much at work with his wife in labor, he tells Josh to take the rest of the day off to spend it with his wife at the hospital. Josh comes back the next day a proud father, grateful to his employer for giving him the opportunity to be part of the birth. He’s motivated to contribute to his team and take part in a workplace that allows him to be human.
In this scenario, the emotional intelligence of the person in a position of power results in a completely different emotional reaction from the employee. You can apply similar processes to everything from requesting vacation time to planning and scheduling, to asking to switch roles.
An emotionally intelligent leader will respond with what’s best for the individual’s happiness and personal comfort (and therefore productivity and long-term loyalty).
Emotional intelligence entails self-awareness and regulation as well as social awareness. This means the individual is highly likely to be self-critical and analytical, to strive to improve, and to work to improve the soft skills that contribute to communication, emotional regulation, and management.
This means an emotionally intelligent person is more likely to recognize and want to work on their own flaws and weaknesses, to take those flaws into account when making decisions, and to actively seek out personal development to improve.
An emotionally intelligent leader will actively work to recognize, reward, and improve the people under them. This often works out to coaching, development, and skills-building across the team or teams.
For example, an emotionally intelligent leader is more likely to recognize when some members are struggling. They’re also more able to sit down with those people to talk about why, to discuss options, and to deliver solutions.
Eventually, this results in a team where people who are having difficulty are able to work on those problems or find resolutions rather than simply falling behind.
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily work in all traditional performance management systems, where leaders are rewarded for being able to fire poor performers. However, it does work in modern 360-degree feedback systems, where everyone is given feedback throughout the year and asked to improve and progress.
Good leadership is about delegation, not technical skill. But good delegation means understanding which people are best capable of what, why, and how much they can take.
A good leader can properly delegate tasks so that everyone remains challenged, fulfilled, and feels that they are treated fairly. This might involve sitting down with teams to ask questions about tasks, capability, speed, and preferences.
It might also mean giving high-potential individuals more complex responsibilities so they can grow into leadership roles. And, it always involves managing work in ways that meet the emotional and mental ability and needs of the individuals in the team.
Good relationship management means facilitating how people work together, communicate, and collaborate. Applying that skill to a team allows you to build stronger teams. This starts with recruitment, where an emotionally intelligent leader could better gauge if a candidate will fit into their team. It also includes understanding the needs of a new hire and what they need to get to know everyone and start building trust.
Over the long-term, emotionally intelligent leaders are better able to understand the emotional interactions of their team. This allows them to facilitate better communication, to coach anyone having issues, and to offer solutions and processes to conflicts and problems.
Setting an Example
People have a very strong tendency to follow the example of their leaders. This is true in change management and it’s true in employee culture. If you want to create a culture of emotionally intelligent communication, it starts with good leadership.
Simple aspects of emotional intelligence like staying calm, approaching conflict with rationality rather than emotion, and seeking to understand what people actually mean or want will transfer to their employees over time. While you should still eventually deliver emotional intelligence training to your teams if you want this behavior, it’s important to establish it in leadership first.
Emotional intelligence is a set of skills, mostly made up of personal and interpersonal regulation, awareness, and management. This means that most people can be trained to be more emotionally intelligent, although some will always be better than others.
For example, anyone with autism on your team will likely struggle in comparison with someone without a social disability.
However, using emotional intelligence as a primary aspect of leadership development can greatly improve the quality of leadership as a whole. Hopefully, these 8 factors have helped you understand how EQ impacts leaders and their teams.