leadership and emotional intelligence

The term emotional intelligence was coined in 1990 by two psychology professors, John D. Mayer of UNH and Peter Salovey of Yale, and through the years it has become a key leadership skill. There are many different definitions, but they all conclude that understanding your emotions can help keep your ego and stress levels in check and help you become a more effective leader. Emotional intelligence can also help you to better respond to the needs of superiors and motivate your employees to do their best.

Think of emotional intelligence as the ability to easily adapt to different situations and personalities. The most effective leaders all have one thing in common: they have a high degree of emotional intelligence.

Below are a few signs of a leader who has high emotional intelligence:

  • Cheers on others and roots for the success of the team.
  • Gives credit where credit is due.
  • Cultivates a sense of camaraderie amongst their team.
  • Helps their team meet or exceed milestones.
  • Grooms employees to take on more responsibility.
  • Does not make decisions out of fear.
  • Is well respected by their team.
  • Openly shares appropriate personal information with their team – team members can easily name 5 things they know about their leader (and vice-versa).
  • Listens and asks questions.
  • Quickly “nips issues in the bud” by being predictably transparent and straightforward.
  • Is assertive without being condescending.

As you read through the above list, which qualities do you see in yourself? Which qualities do you need to improve upon?

Best Practices for Improving Your Emotional Intelligence

Practice active listening

Pay attention to what is being said and provide feedback when asked. Respond appropriately and be honest when you’re unsure of the best response.

Ask more questions

Emotionally intelligent leaders ask anywhere between 5-10 questions per conversation. This is a simple way to show that you’re actively listening.

Keep your word

Be honest with yourself and with others.

Be a resource to others

When an employee has a problem, don’t leap to fix it. Instead, provide the resources they need and stand back as they work through the issue themselves. You can always jump back in as needed.

Avoid jumping to conclusions

Practice viewing one situation in multiple ways before responding.

Try one positive affirmation each day

If fear of rejection or failure plagues your mind. [Related: 21 Positive Affirmations That Actually Work]

Don’t take it personal

When someone does something that upsets you, pause your reaction and try to see the situation objectively. People are how they are because of them, not you.

Remember that the world doesn’t revolve around you

Take a nature walk or visit the beach, watch the stars at night. Nature has a way of making us all feel tiny and connected to others.

Listen and respond appropriately to feedback

Pay attention to body language.

Accept failure

Failure is an inevitable condition of success.

Be proactive

Be aware of what is happening so that you can get ahead of any issues.

Remember your manners

Saying, “please,” and, “thank you,” goes a long way.

Clearly communicate your objectives

Be clear about your objectives and expectations from the beginning and communicate these expectations and objectives regularly. Acknowledge milestones!

A modern day definition

Years after pioneering the term, psychologist John D. Mayer defined it in his Harvard Business Review in this way:

From a scientific (rather than a popular) standpoint, emotional intelligence is the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others’ emotions. It doesn’t necessarily include the qualities (like optimism, initiative, and self-confidence) that some popular definitions ascribe to it.

Emotional intelligence is crucial to maintaining positive and fulfilling relationships, but it can be difficult to put things into perspective when you feel alone at the top of the leadership hill. Hire Art to discuss your leadership strategy.


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Art Jackson, Professional Speaker, Executive Coach

Art Jackson

Art Jackson is a professional speaker and executive coach. He is a recognized expert in the areas of leadership, performance improvement and interpersonal skills.

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