The use of emotional intelligence in leadership — is it necessary?

24th Aug 2017
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Developing your emotional intelligence can help you make an informed decision in the various leadership situations you might face.

As a leader, you are exposed to varied situations; you meet different people and undergo a range of experiences. The common thread through all these is the array of emotions that are created within you. Emotional intelligence is not about these emotions — it is about the manner in which you interpret and then act on them. That is what makes you a true and inspiring leader.

There are two aspects of emotional intelligence at the foundational level — once we understand them, we can decide whether using them in leadership is necessary. Getting insights into them will enable you to take an informed decision on whether the leadership situation you face requires emotional intelligence to deal with it.

The first one is self-awareness and the second is awareness of the emotions of those around you. To make emotional intelligence wholesome, these two aspects need to move together to the next level which is application.

  • Self-awareness: Your understanding of your own emotions as well as how you react to different situations and people is critical. For example, how do your emotions impact your relationship with team members, when a tight project deadline is given? Or how do your emotions influence your decision-making when you think of promotions and performances of team members? Or how do your emotions help mitigate a situation that is created due to friction between two colleagues? These are just a few practical examples to give you a perspective. As a leader, if you face these situations or anticipate them, the use of emotional intelligence to manage them is imperative. It is only by being emotionally intelligent you can ensure that such situations will have positive outcomes and no negative impact on the business.
  • Awareness of the emotions of others: Research says that emotional intelligence has become a key leadership skill. Why is that? While the application of emotional intelligence on leadership has been discussed frequently, EI becoming a key skill is a recent development. The reason is that leaders need to be able to gauge the situation and people, prior to each business decision. With the world economy showing steep highs and lows, and the changes in our business environment becoming difficult to predict, leaders are constantly under pressure to make the right decisions. And that can happen only by understanding the underlying emotions that drive the business and the workforce. Only an emotionally intelligent leader can have that perceptive ability.

An HBR study shared that there is a clear link between empathic leadership and financial performance. Have a look at the graph below.

Therefore, emotional intelligence needs to be used in leadership because, in today’s world, the softer skills, attributes, and the ability to hone them for business impact create a competitive advantage. Emotions are at the core of these attributes and assessing how they can affect the financial performance of the organisation as a whole is what leaders need to focus on. Even on a relative comparison scale with respect to IQ, EI has been rated as a more impactful competency for leaders to develop.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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