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Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Learning How to Be More Aware

When you think of a "perfect leader," what comes to mind?
You might picture someone who never lets his temper get out of control, no matter what
problems he's facing. Or you might think of someone who has the complete trust of her staff,
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.
In this article, we'll 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 (EI) is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and
those of the people around you. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence know what
they're feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these 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 stay in control,
and calmly assesses the situation?
According to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist who helped to popularize EI, there are
five main elements of emotional intelligence:
1. Self-awareness.
2. Self-regulation.
3. Motivation.
4. Empathy.
5. Social skills.

The more that you, as a leader, manage each of these areas, the higher your emotional
intelligence. So, let's look at each element in more detail and examine how you can grow as a

Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

1. Self-awareness

If you're self-aware, you always know how you feel, and you know how your emotions and your
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 behaving with
So, what can you do to improve your self-awareness?

Keep a journal Journals help you improve your self-awareness. If you

spend just a few minutes each day writing down your thoughts, this can
move you to a higher degree of self-awareness.

Slow down When you experience anger or other strong emotions, slow
down to examine why. Remember, no matter what the situation, you can
always choose how you react to it. (Our article on Managing Your Emotions at
Work will help you understand what your emotions are telling you.)

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.
This element of emotional intelligence, according to Goleman, also covers a leader's flexibility
and commitment to personal accountability.
So, how can you improve your ability to self-regulate?

Know your values Do you have a clear idea of where you absolutely will
not compromise? Do you know what values are most important to you?
Spend some time examining your "code of ethics." If you know what's most
important to you, then you probably won't have to think twice when you face
a moral or ethical decision you'll make the right choice.

Hold yourself accountable If you tend to blame others when something

goes wrong, stop. Make a commitment to admit to your mistakes and to 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 The next time you're in a challenging situation, be

very aware of how you act. Do you relieve your stress by shouting at
someone else? Practice deep-breathing exercises to calm yourself. Also, try to
write down all of the negative things you want to say, and then rip it up and
throw it away. Expressing these emotions on paper (and not showing them to

anyone!) is better than speaking them aloud to your team. What's more, this
helps you challenge your reactions to ensure that they're fair!
3. Motivation

Self-motivated leaders work consistently toward their goals, and they have extremely high
standards for the quality of their work.
How can you improve your motivation?

Re-examine why you're doing your job It's 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, try the Five Whys
technique to find the root of the problem. Starting at the root often helps you look at your
situation in a new way.
And make sure that your goal statements are fresh and energizing. For more on this, see
our article on Goal Setting.

Know where you stand Determine how motivated you are to lead. Our
Leadership Motivation Assessment can help you see clearly how motivated
you are in your leadership role. If you need to increase your motivation to
lead, it directs you to resources that can help.

Be hopeful and find something good Motivated leaders are usually optimistic, no
matter what problems they face. Adopting this mindset might take practice, but it's well
worth the effort.
Every time you face a challenge, or even a failure, try to find at least one good thing
about the situation. It might be something small, like a new contact, or something with
long-term effects, like an important lesson learned. But there's almost always something
positive, if you look for it.

4. Empathy

For leaders, having empathy is critical to managing a successful team or organization. Leaders
with empathy have the ability to put themselves in someone else's situation. They help develop
the people on their team, challenge others who are acting unfairly, give constructive feedback,
and listen to those who need it.
If you want to earn the respect and loyalty of your team, then show them you care by being
How can you improve your empathy?

Put yourself in someone else's position It's easy to support your own
point of view. After all, it's yours! But take the time to look at situations from
other people's perspectives. See our article on Perceptual Positions for a
useful technique for doing this.

Pay attention to body language Perhaps when you listen to someone,

you cross your arms, move your feet back and forth, or bite your lip. This
body language tells others how you really feel about a situation, and the
message you're giving isn't positive! Learning to read body language can be
a real asset in a leadership role, because you'll be better able to determine
how someone truly feels. This gives you the opportunity to respond

Respond to feelings You ask your assistant to work late again. And
although he agrees, you can hear the disappointment in his voice. So,
respond by addressing his feelings. Tell him you appreciate how willing he is
to work extra hours, and that you're just as frustrated about working late. If
possible, figure out a way for future late nights to be less of an issue (for
example, give him Monday mornings off).

5. Social skills

Leaders who do well in the social skills element of emotional intelligence are great
communicators. They're just as open to hearing bad news as good news, and they're expert at
getting their team to support them and be excited 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 don't sit back and
make everyone else do the work: They set an example with their own behavior.
So, how can you build social skills?

Learn conflict resolution Leaders must know how to resolve conflicts

between their team members, customers, or vendors. Learning conflict
resolution skills is vital if you want to succeed.

Improve your communication skills How well do you communicate? Our

communication quiz will help you answer this question, and it will give useful
feedback on what you can do to improve.

Learn how to praise others As a leader, you can inspire the loyalty of
your team simply by giving praise when it's earned. Learning how to praise
others is a fine art, but well worth the effort.

Key Points

To be effective, leaders must have a solid understanding of how their emotions and actions affect
the people around them. The better a leader relates to and works with others, the more successful
he or she will be.
Take the time to work on self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.
Working on these areas will help you excel in the future!

Developing Self-Awareness
Understanding Yourself

When actions and values are aligned, you feel positive and self-confident.

It is wisdom to know others; It is enlightenment to know one's self. Lao-Tzu,

Chinese philosopher

Have you ever worked with someone who was very self-aware?
This person considered the needs and feelings of others, took responsibility for her mistakes, was
humble about her strengths, never said thoughtless things, and was aware of how her words and
actions affected others.
Put simply, this person was great to work with!
Self-awareness is one of the most important qualities that you can have as a leader, and
developing self-awareness is important in both your personal and professional life.
In this article we'll look at self-awareness in more detail, and we'll explore how you can develop
What is Self-Awareness?

Researchers Shelley Duval and Robert Wicklund published the first major theory of selfawareness in the early 1970s. They said that self-awareness is the ability to look inward, think
deeply about your behavior, and consider how it aligns with your moral standards and values.
They argued that when your behavior is out of alignment with your standards, you feel
uncomfortable, unhappy and negative. By contrast, when your behavior and values are aligned,
you feel positive and self-confident. Self-awareness also gives you a deeper understanding of
your own attitudes, opinions, and knowledge.
Self-awareness is sometimes confused with self-consciousness, but there's an important
difference between these. Self-consciousness is a hyper-sensitized state of self-awareness; it's the
excessive preoccupation with your own manners, behavior, or appearance, and is often seen as
negative. Self-awareness is focused on the impact your behavior has on other people, and, as
such, is much more positive.
Self-awareness is one of the most important elements of emotional intelligence. It gives you the
ability to understand and control your own emotions and actions, and it helps you understand
how these affect the emotions and actions of others.
Why Self-Awareness is Important

Self-awareness brings benefits in both your personal and professional life.

First, research shows a strong link between self-awareness and high-performance in managers.
You're simply more effective in a leadership role when you understand your internal state, as
well as your team members' emotions.
If you're aware of your own strengths and weaknesses, you have the power to use your strengths
intentionally, and to manage or eliminate your weaknesses. When you can admit what you don't
know and you have the humility to ask for help when you need it you increase your
credibility with your team.
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses also has positive, long-term benefits for your career, as
well as for your long-term health and happiness. In one study, researchers found that leaders who
were aware of their strengths were more self-confident, were more highly paid, and were happier
at work.
On a personal level, having self-awareness allows you to approach people and situations with
confidence. In turn, this means that you gain control of your own life, direction, and experiences.
How to Develop Self-Awareness

There are several ways to develop self-awareness. Keep in mind, however, that this takes time
and work.
1. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

You can start building self-awareness by learning where you are strongest and weakest. Conduct
a Personal SWOT Analysis to get a better understanding of this. You might also want take the
StrengthsFinder self-test, which helps you identify your five greatest strengths.
When you understand how your personality compares with the personalities of other people, you
can discover what motivates you, and how you relate to the world. Both of these are important
aspects of self-awareness.
This is where personality tests such as the Big Five Personality Model and Myers-Briggs can
be valuable tools for self-discovery.
2. Reflect on the Impact You Have

When you are self-aware, you understand how you instinctively think, connect with other people,
communicate, and make decisions.
A great way to understand these things is to keep a journal, where you write about your day, the
things that you did, the emotions you experienced and expressed, and the consequences of these.
This helps you think about what does and doesn't work for you, and helps you be more aware of
your impact on other people.

Alternatively, take a break for five or 10 minutes a day and meditate. Meditation helps broaden
and strengthen your self-awareness, and it can also lower stress.
Or take time in the evening to reflect quietly about your day, and think about how effectively you
worked with people. What did you do really well? And what could you have done better?
3. Focus on Others

People who are self-aware are conscious of how their words and actions influence others.
To become more aware of how you affect others, learn how to manage your emotions. Take time
to weigh what you say carefully, and think about how it will affect the person that you're
speaking to.
If you find yourself taking your stress, anger, or frustrations out on others, stop immediately.
Instead, see if you can find something positive about the situation. Take a few deep breaths, or
even walk away if you find that you can't control your emotions.
When you manage your own words or actions, it doesn't mean that you're being false. Rather, it
shows that you care about other people enough not to say or do something that might affect them
in a negative way.
Showing humility is an important part of this. When you're humble, you focus your attention and
energy on others and not on yourself.
4. Ask for Feedback

Getting feedback is important for developing self-awareness after all, this is often the only way
that you can find out about issues that you may not be able to face directly. (See our article on
the Johari Window for more on this.)
You can get feedback from your colleagues and team members, either with direct questions or
with 360 Feedback . When you ask for feedback from the people around you, this gives you a
chance to see your behavior from their point of view. What's more, it can help you identify
weaknesses that you can't see, or that you'd prefer to ignore.
Key Points

By developing self-awareness, you get to know what does and doesn't work for you, and you
learn how to manage your impact on other people.
People with high levels of self-awareness are more effective as leaders, because they deal with
people positively, and they inspire trust and credibility in their team members.

As a result, these people also often have more satisfying careers and higher incomes.
To develop self-awareness, learn about your strengths and weaknesses. Take time to analyze the
decisions that you make, focus on managing your emotions, and be humble about your
Apply This to Your Life

Schedule some time to meditate. Find a quiet place where you can sit down,
and take a few minutes to meditate properly.

Buy a journal. In the evening, set aside a few minutes to reflect quietly about
your day, and then write down your thoughts. If you can, do this as soon as
you get in, as the events of your day will be fresh in your mind.

Leading by Example
Making Sure You "Walk the Talk"

Greg Epperson
Lead your people by example to success.
There's the boss who tells everyone to stay late, and then leaves promptly at 5:00pm to go

There's the supervisor who criticizes everyone for spending time on the Internet, but is
discovered buying groceries online in the middle of the afternoon.
And the CFO who recommends layoffs to stop "unnecessary spending," but then buys herself
brand-new luxury office furniture.
Do you know any of these people?
There's hardly anything worse for company morale than leaders who practice the "Do as I say,
not as I do" philosophy. When this happens, you can almost see the loss of enthusiasm and
goodwill among the staff. It's like watching the air go out of a balloon and cynicism and
disappointment usually take its place.
No matter what the situation is, double standards witnessing people say one thing, and then
doing another always feel like betrayals. They can be very destructive. If this ever happened to
you, you can probably remember that sense of disappointment and letdown.
If you're in a leadership position, then you know that you have a responsibility to your team.
They look to you for guidance and strength; that's part of what being a leader is. And a big part
of your responsibility is to lead them with your own actions.
So, why is it so important to lead by example; and what happens when you don't?

Why It Matters
There's an old saying about the difference between a manager and a leader: "Managers do things
right. Leaders do the right things." (It's best to be both a manager and a leader they're just
different processes.)
As a leader, part of your job is to inspire the people around you to push themselves and, in turn,
the company to greatness. To do this, you must show them the way by doing it yourself.
Stop and think about the inspiring people who have changed the world with their examples.
Consider what Mahatma Gandhi accomplished through his actions: He spent most of his adult
life living what he preached to others. He was committed to nonviolent resistance to protest
injustice, and people followed in his footsteps. He led them, and India, to independence
because his life proved, by example, that it could be done.
Although Gandhi's situation is very different from yours, the principle is the same. When you
lead by example, you create a picture of what's possible. People can look at you and say, "Well, if
he can do it, I can do it." When you lead by example, you make it easy for others to follow you.
Look at legendary businessman, Jack Welch of General Electric. Welch knew that to push GE to
new heights, he had to turn everything upside down. So that's just what he did.

He developed the whole idea of a "boundaryless organization." This means that everyone is free
to brainstorm and think of ideas instead of waiting for someone "higher up" in the bureaucracy
to think of them first. He wanted his team turned loose, and he promised to listen to ideas from
anyone in the company. And he did. Everyone from the lowest line workers to senior managers
got his attention if they had something to say or a new idea that might make the company
better. It wasn't just talk, and it didn't take his team long to figure that out.
Welch stayed true to his passions and what he knew was right. As a result, GE became an
incredibly successful company under his management. His team was always willing to follow his
lead, because the people within it knew that he always kept his word.
What does this mean for you? If you give yourself to your team and show them the way, then,
most likely, they'll follow you anywhere.

When You Don't Lead by Example

We've seen just how powerful it can be to lead by example. But what happens when you don't
follow this rule? How does your team feel when you tell them to do one thing, and then you do
the exact opposite?
As we said earlier, if this ever happened to you, then it shouldn't be hard to remember how angry
and disappointed you were.
When leaders don't "practice what they preach," it can be almost impossible for a team to work
together successfully. How can anyone trust a leader who talks about one thing, but does
Consider what might have happened if Gandhi had, even one time, been in a physical fight with
his opposition. His important message of nonviolent protest would probably have been much
harder to believe after that. His followers would have looked at him with suspicion and distrust.
The chances of them getting into physical arguments or committing acts of violence probably
would have increased dramatically.
Do you think that Alexander the Great's soldiers would have fought so hard for him if he had sat
on top of a hill, safe from the battle? Probably not. He would have been just another average
general in our history books, instead of the example of a successful leader that we know today.
And so it is with your team. If you say one thing and do another, they likely won't follow you
enthusiastically. Why should they? Everything you tell them after that may meet with suspicion
and doubt. They may not trust that you're doing the right thing, or that you know what you're
talking about. They may no longer believe in you.
Good leaders push their people forward with excitement, inspiration, trust, and vision. If you
lead a team that doesn't trust you, productivity will drop. Enthusiasm may disappear. The vision
you're trying so hard to make happen may lose its appeal, all because your team doesn't trust you

Key Points
Good leadership takes strength of character and a firm commitment to do the right thing, at the
right time, for the right reason. This means doing what you say, when you say it. If your team
can't trust you, you'll probably never lead them to greatness.
Leading and living by example isn't as hard as it might sound. It's really the easiest path. If
your team knows that you'll also do whatever you expect from them, they'll likely work hard to
help you achieve your goal.
Mahatma Gandhi and Alexander the Great helped change the world because they lived by
example and, as a result, they accomplished great things.

Apply This to Your Life

If you ask a co-worker to do something, make sure you'd be willing to do it yourself.

If you implement new rules for the office, then follow those rules just as closely as you
expect everyone else to follow them. For example, if the new rule is "no personal calls at
work," then don't talk to your spouse at work. You'll be seen as dishonest, and your staff
may become angry and start disobeying you.

Look closely at your own behavior. If you criticize people for interrupting, but you
constantly do it yourself, you need to fix this. Yes, you want people to pay attention to
one another and listen to all viewpoints, so demonstrate this yourself.

If, in the spirit of goodwill, you make a rule for everyone to leave the office at 5:00 p.m.,
then you need to do it too. If you stay late to get more work done, your team may feel
guilty and start staying late too, which can destroy the whole purpose of the rule. The
same is true for something like a lunch break if you want your team to take a full hour
to rest and relax, then you need to do it too.