Leadership is not an easy path to follow. You have to first find the way, tread on it and then convince scores of others to follow your lead. A leader has to be responsible and committed to inspire the same traits in their followers, something that can't be achieved by issuing orders and ultimatums. Good leaders gain loyal followers by becoming role models whom others genuinely want to follow.
To become that type of leader hinges on one thing above all: emotional intelligence. An emotionally intelligent person is one who can exert control over emotions and reactions, and is able to handle interpersonal interactions with empathy and logic — traits which are vital for any good leader.
Studies have also proven that EQ (emotional quotient) is more crucial for a successful career than IQ (intelligence quotient). On that note, here are five ways to be an emotionally intelligent leader:
The first step to being an emotionally intelligent person is gaining awareness and control over one's emotions. By disassociating and observing emotional distress from a third-person perspective, one can retain the capacity of rational thinking even in trying circumstances. For leaders, this crux of emotional intelligence allows them to take logical decisions and actions without being swayed by emotions such as frustration, disappointment, anger, or sorrow — an invaluable trait when you're at the helm of a business venture.
In simplest terms, empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person's shoes and understand their perspective on the matter at hand. For leaders, this aspect of emotional intelligence helps them better understand their employees and offer assistance in ways that make them more enthusiastic and loyal colleagues. Empathetic leaders can view their employee's problems and suggestions free of judgement, thereby enabling themselves to make the logically coherent choice when required.
An over-inflated ego is stereotypical of bosses but leaders should strive to avoid this pitfall. Humility allows leaders to admit to their flaws and there is always room for improvement. Leaders who acknowledge this fact and hence readily accept, and respond to, constructive criticism from their employees automatically become better at their jobs. It also makes them more likeable in the eyes of their followers.
Emotionally intelligent leaders always involve their employees while making decisions, no matter how big or small. They're aware that their employees have skill sets and perspectives which can be leveraged to make well-informed decisions. Creating an inclusive environment in which employees are allowed to share their opinions and suggestions is the best way to increase confidence and motivation levels in the workplace.
Richard Branson said that "success in business is all about people, people and people." He's certainly right; a leader who can't get people to follow him is no leader at all. Emotionally intelligent leaders are great people persons; they are talented at building relationships, maintaining rapport and inculcating trust among all those they interact with. Getting people to like their boss is a daunting challenge but taking the time to connect with them can go a long way; it eliminates interpersonal conflicts, enables more productive discussions, and generally makes work more enjoyable.
Many CEOs — from Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) to Indra Nooyi (Pepsi) and Howard Schultz (Starbucks) — are great examples of emotionally intelligent leaders. If that doesn't inspire you to improve your EI, then nothing will.