Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and control your feelings, as well as those of people in your surroundings. Individuals with developed emotional intelligence are keenly aware of their emotions, what they mean, and how they impact others. For individuals in leadership positions, possessing emotional intelligence can mean the difference between success and failure.

A leader that can’t control his temper, or one that lashes out at fellow workers at the slightest provocation, will interfere with work, lower morale, and potentially jeopardize the entire business operation. Conversely, a leader that is calm under duress and measured in his dealing with people is a key factor of company success.

Daniel Goleman, the psychologist who initially popularized the term, distinguished five factors of emotional intelligence: 1) self-awareness, 2) self-regulation, 3) motivation, 4) empathy, and 5) social skills. A leader who takes the time to cultivate these aspects of his mental life is more likely to perform his role well. We will now take a look at each of them in turn, clarifying how they can contribute to the development of leadership skills.


Develop Self-Awareness

Most Important Leadership Craft – Emotional Intelligence
Self-awareness, as the word implies, means that you are aware of what’s going in your head, and how your actions affect other people. A consequence of being self-aware is a better understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of the people around. This makes interaction easier, which in turn reduces productivity losses as a result of miscommunication.

Self-awareness can be developed in a number of ways. Writing down your thoughts can help you develop a more nuanced view of your self. Gauging how you respond in extreme situations can make you more attuned smaller disturbances as well. However, the best general advice for developing self-awareness is by taking the time to think things through. Making an effort to exercise your brain at all times will lead to greater self-awareness, whether you like it or not.



Practice Self-Control

Emotional Intelligence
Self-control is the key factor in leadership development success. Individuals with a greater sense of self-control will rarely provoke others without reason, make hasty decisions, or lose their calm demeanor. To be in control is to have agency, and being a leader hinges on the ability to take actions at opportune moments. Moreover, the image a collected leader projects can inspire similar feelings in other people, thus reducing workplace entropy.

Is there a trick to learning self-control? For starters, having a clear idea of what you are trying to accomplish at any given moment will allow you to focus on what matters, and disregard everything else as a distraction. Next, try to control your movements. Moving through space in an orderly, disciplined manner will compliment rational thinking and action. Finally, remind yourself that as a leader you need to project a stable image to inspire followers, and this requires self-control.

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Maintain Motivation

Emotional Intelligence
Motivation is crucial for the success of any endeavor, and this includes being a leader. A motivated person will strive to achieve their goals without taking shortcuts, ensuring a degree of excellence which would otherwise be unattainable. Motivation can also be contagious, nudging people around you to work hard to match your enthusiasm.

Depending on the circumstances, becoming motivated can be the easiest thing in the world or something that feels completely unattainable. So what can you do keep yourself motivated as a leader? First, be mindful of the reason you undertook the position in the first place. It’s easy to forget what initially drove you where you are now, so it always helps to remind yourself from time to time. Second, try to be optimistic about your chances at success. If you approach every problem with an attitude that you can solve it, you will keep at it until you reach this point. Finally, stop living in fear of failure.

Making mistakes is part of life, so you shouldn’t fear them, and take them instead as opportunities for doing better next time.



Cultivate Empathy

Empathy is the glue that holds people together. Since the job a leader is to lead a group of people towards some common goal, it is imperative that he possesses empathy as a core competency. Without the ability to put himself in another person’s shoes, a leader will quickly lose connection with his peers, leading to the slow disintegration of the group.

Contrary to what you may have heard, empathy is nothing something you are born with. It is a skill that can be practiced like any other. Start by noticing how other people behave in particular situations, and then try to imagine what you would do. If you find that you would act differently, figure out what would make you act the same as others do. While looking at how people react, pay special attention to body language. It is a whole channel of communication of its own and neglecting to notice it will keep feelings of other people hidden from you. Finally, don’t forget that at some point you will have to stop looking, and start acting. So when that moment comes, be sure to act in a way which won’t upset the people around you.

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Learn Social Skills

emotional intelligence
Emotionally intelligence is not just something that happens in your mind. It is a much broader social phenomenon, and a competent leader should treat it as such. Emotional intelligence is manifested at any time you engage in some form of social exchange, including everyday conversations, workplace etiquette, celebrations, commuting, etc. A leader with strong emotional intelligence will know how to use these occasions to further company goals without coercion, misdirection or exploitation.

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