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Jonathan Gale, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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Emotional Intelligence in Leadership
By Jonathan Gale, Ph.D.

When you think of a “great” leader, who comes to mind? You might picture someone who never lets his temper get out of control, no matter what problems he's facing. You might think of someone who has the complete trust of her staff, always speaks kindly, listens to her team, is easy to talk to and always makes careful, informed decisions.

These are qualities of someone with a high degree of emotional intelligence. Here we will look at why emotional intelligence is so important for leaders – and how you, as a leader, can improve yours.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence (often referred to as EQ) is the ability to understand and manage both your own emotions and those of the people around you. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence usually know what they're feeling, what this means, and how their emotions can affect other people.

For leaders, having emotional intelligence is essential for success. After all, who is more likely to succeed, a leader who shouts at his team when he's under stress, or a leader who stays cool and calmly assesses the situation?

According to Daniel Goleman, the “father” of EQ, there are five main elements of emotional intelligence. The more that you as a leader manage each of these areas, the higher your EQ will be. Let's look at each element to examine how you can grow as a leader.

1. Self-Awareness
If you're self-aware, you are in touch with how you feel and you know how your emotions and actions can affect the people around you. Being self-aware when you're in a leadership position also means having a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses. And it means having humility.

To improve your self-awareness, try keeping a journal. When you write down your thoughts, you pull things into consciousness which might not typically reside there.

2. Self-Regulation
Leaders who regulate themselves effectively rarely verbally attack others, make rushed or emotional decisions, stereotype people, or compromise their values. Self-regulation is all about staying in control. To improve your ability to self-regulate, focus on the following:

Know your values. Do you know what values are most important to you? Do you have a clear idea of where you absolutely will not compromise? Awareness of your "code of ethics" will help expedite your decision-making process

Hold yourself accountable. If you tend to blame others when something goes wrong, stop. Own your part and face the consequences, whatever they are. You'll probably sleep better at night, and you'll quickly earn the respect of those around you.

Practice being calm. Are you “tightly wound” or always in a hurry? These ways of being are not congruent with self-regulation. It is important to develop the skills required to relax, even in the face of challenge.

3. Motivation
Self-motivated leaders consistently work toward their goals, and they have extremely high standards for the quality of their work. It can be easy to forget what you really love about your career. So, take some time to remember why you wanted this job. If you're unhappy in your role and you're struggling to remember why you wanted it, self-reflection or Leadership Coaching can help. It is also important to remember the fact that you are a leader of others and to determine how motivated you are to lead. Motivated leaders are usually optimistic, no matter what they face. Adopting this mindset might take practice, but it’s well worth the effort. There's almost always something positive, you just have to look for it.

4. Empathy
For leaders, having empathy is critical to managing a successful team. Leaders with empathy have the ability to put themselves in someone else's shoes. They help develop the people on their team, challenge others who are acting unfairly, give constructive feedback and listen to those who need it.

Take the time to look at situations from other people's perspectives. Also notice your non-verbal signals when listening and empathizing. Do you cross your arms, move your feet back and forth, or bite your lip? These behaviors might not signal true empathy! Think about hearing and responding to the feelings.

5. Social Skills
Leaders who do well in this element of emotional intelligence are great communicators. They're just as open to hearing bad news as good news, and they're experts at getting their team to support them and find excitement about a new mission or project.

Leaders who have good social skills are also good at managing change and resolving conflicts diplomatically. They're rarely satisfied with leaving things as they are, but they're also not willing to make everyone else do the work. They set the example with their own behavior.

If you are not particularly strong in these areas, think about resources you might use to enhance those abilities. Leadership Coaching is always a good first step.

Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at jgalephd@mckenziemgmt.com

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