Leadership, Society

Emotional Intelligence makes Leaders Effective by Eunice Musiime

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As a student of leadership, I have become intentional about observing the difference between strong and weak leaders for my own learning and self improvement. One quality, I have come to admire, seek, covet, envy in great leaders, is Emotional Intelligence.

For years, educators, human resource professionals, corporate trainers, recruiters, managers and others have known what sets apart the average performers from the stars. It isn’t technical skills – those are easy to learn, and it’s easy to determine if someone has them or not. It isn’t necessarily intelligence, either. It is something else, something that you knew it if you saw it, but which was difficult to clearly define. It was called ‘people skills’ and now more recently, emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence was coined in 1990 in a research paper by two psychology professors, John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey, who defined it 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.

The five components of emotional intelligence that allow individuals to recognize, connect with, and learn from their own and other people’s mental states are:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation (defined as “a passion for work that goes beyond money and status”)
  • Empathy for others
  • Social skills, such as proficiency in managing relationships and building networks

Have you come across adults who find it difficult to say I am sorry? Or find it difficult to acknowledge their role in a not so good situation. Or unwilling to discuss possible ways that the situation could be handled differently or adults who throw a tantrum if things don’t proceed the way they envisaged? We could all benefit improving our intrapersonal and inter personal skills.

To begin with, how self-aware are you? Self-awareness is about achieving a realistic view of one’s strengths and weaknesses and of how those strengths and weaknesses compare to others. Not an easy process if you ask me but one that harvests great benefits if properly employed.

Real self awareness will not happen, unless one gets accurate feedback from either respected friends or a 360-degree process of assessment. A 360 degree assessment or personality tests are great tool to help us uncover EQ-related blind spots, not least because other people are generally too polite to give us negative feedback.

Equally key is how self-aware of others’ emotions that helps a leader to strengthen their emotional intelligence.  Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference. A Leader who is in tune with the team is likely to succeed.

Finally, how a leader navigates and builds strong social networks determines how better informed, more creative, more efficient than those with limited social networks.  By having a trusted set of advisors and advocates, effective networkers make better decisions faster and are more likely to have support for their ideas and plans. Relationships will not just happen, it requires one to invest time, plan activities and anticipate likely spaces to make great connections.

In sum, technical skills and intelligence are great, the missing link is a leader’s emotional intelligence to propel one to greater heights. The next time, one is tempted to throw a tantrum, it would serve better to keep calm.