The Power of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

by May 31, 2022

As a culture consultant on a mission to create positive work environments, I’ve engaged with leaders from around the world in a variety of different industries. One common challenge I’m faced with is helping them bring out the best in themselves and their employees, resulting in organizational transformation and overall business success. 


What I’ve found is that while most of the leaders I work with are highly intelligent and well versed in the technical aspects of the position and organization, they’re lacking other skills that have become key to personal, employee and organizational success.  


I see it all the time. Employees are advanced upwards through the organization because of their ability to do the job itself, but are not given proper training around managing performance, empowering employees, navigating conflict, coaching poor behavior, stress management, and other necessary skills (we don’t call them “soft skills”).


When these skills are lost or forgotten, it can result in toxic behavior and negative workplace cultures. 


Emotional intelligence is what I’m talking about, and it’s the “capacity to be aware of, control and express one’s emotions and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” It’s an imperative part of successful leadership from the CEO all the way down to first level supervisors, especially in this evolving business environment. Employee expectations are changing due to the generational shift, political climate, and the Great Resignation, for example, and staying in tune with workforce needs is key.


Emotional intelligence can be broken down into five scales. Address each scale with tangible action items, and you could increase your emotional intelligence. 


Self-perception is the awareness of our own emotions, strengths and weaknesses and drive to improve. Some strategies for increasing awareness might be to take an assessment, observe those around you, or journal your own emotions throughout the day to understand how you respond to certain triggers.  


Self-expression is how your emotions dictate your behavior. It’s the ability to express your feelings verbally and non-verbally in a nondestructive way and be independent of the emotions of others. One great way to improve self-expression is to simply practice how you might respond in certain scenarios at work, something we have employees do in virtually every single one of our training sessions


Interpersonal is the level at which you can practice empathy, social responsibility, and ultimately foster positive relationships with others. More and more, employees are looking to build mutually beneficial relationships with their supervisors and leadership. Leaders can do so by actively listening, showing employee opinions are valued, and getting curious about what motivates their employees. Try implementing informal 1:1’s to check in and get to know your staff. 


Decision making is our ability to control our impulses, remain objective, and solve emotional problems. Often, negative interactions at work are a result of failure to step back in emotional situations. For example, sometimes when things go wrong, we tend to connect the problem and the person, thus influencing our interactions with that person moving forward. The next time an issue arises, reframe your internal dialogue to address the issue itself, rather than who did it and why. 


Stress management can be broken down into three factors: Flexibility, stress tolerance, and optimism. In simpler terms, it’s the ability to adapt, cope and remain hopeful in difficult situations. One of our previous blog posts has a ton of tools you can use – for example, practicing 4-7-8 breathing. 


Leaders can use emotional intelligence in a number of different personal and professional scenarios. And, those with higher emotional intelligence have been found to make better decisions, handle high pressure situations, motivate employees, take in constructive feedback and use it to their advantage, and more. 


Bottom line is that leaders with emotional intelligence encourage more positive work environments, better motivate employees, and increase retention. 


About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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