Emotional intelligence (otherwise known as emotional quotient or EQ) is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.
Emotional Intelligence, simply put, is what I think we can call the definition of Personal Leadership. For years, I have believed the fact that if you cannot lead yourself you will get nowhere. To succeed in leading other people, you have to be able to lead yourself effectively. It is nearly impossible to lead yourself if you haven’t mastered your emotions.
This master of emotions or emotional intelligence as it is popularly known is a strong skill that a leader needs to develop before getting the opportunity to lead. If you already have the opportunity to lead, there is no problem with that. You can take your leadership game to the next level by gaining mastery of your emotions.
When you take a look at all the keywords under Emotional Intelligence, one word that stands out is ‘Self-Awareness.’ You can’t be leading others when you don’t have self-awareness. It is a difficult thing to do and, in some cases, could be suicidal. Your character flaw will get in the way of leading your team frequently and when that happens, you may not be able to take the heat of being confronted with the consequences of your character flaw.
Through Self-Awareness, a leader also understands personal security which allows you to step back, as the situation may demand, and allow your followers shine. You clearly understand what shining within or outside the team does to your followers and will master how to let them shine without feeling insecure.
If you can’t let another person shine because you are the leader, you still need to learn more about Emotional Intelligence. You need to identify your strength and realize that your strength is unique to you. The strength of your followers will not take that away and you all can focus on shining individually or shining as a team, depending on which goal is more important to you.
According to Dr. Rob Yeung, Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and manage moods and feelings – in both ourselves and other people.
Now, that definition underscores what most effective and successful leaders do all through their time in an office or throughout their lives. They have the huge responsibility of managing their emotions and the emotions of others in such a way that the ultimate goal of the teams, organisations or nation is achieved.
Without Emotional Intelligence, the way a leader processes information will be faulty. Let’s imagine for a moment a leader without emotional intelligence in a decision-making process. Before the decision-making starts, the process is already about the leader. This leader will seek to establish a position as the leader or fight anyone who wants to challenge the authority being exercised as the leader in the team. The insecure leaders must be seen to be in charge or to have taken a decision for everybody.
This is not the case with emotionally intelligent leaders. They understand that the final decision to be made lies with them and the followers can’t take that power away. They also acknowledge the fact that they are not the smartest people in the room. They may be smart but there are other smart people in the room with equally valid opinions. With this understanding, they give the free room for others to challenge their thought processes, style or even decisions.
Emotionally intelligent leaders listen without feeling their authority is being challenged and they can pick the brains of everyone in the room to make smart decisions that will favour everyone. If you are not emotionally intelligent as a leader, you will keep thinking that the people who are challenging your decisions are trying to fight you. You will think, at some point, that they hate you and you will have unnecessary frictions with the people you should be leading.
I also believe that emotionally intelligent leaders take time out to understand temperaments. Just as the subject of Emotional Intelligence, there are several authors on the subject of temperaments. Temperament, according to Tim Lahaye, is why you act the way you do and four principal temperaments were identified. These temperaments classified people as having characters called Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholy and Phlegmatic.
There are several texts out there on the subject so I strongly suggest you read and understand the subject and possible combinations you may have of the temperaments. Why is this important? It comes easier for you to quickly analyze the people you are working with based on some actions, strengths and weaknesses. This then gives you an idea of how to relate with them or how best to position them in teams.
I must immediately point out that no book can help you completely and accurately analyze people. I have met with a few leaders who tried to analyze the people they were going to work with without asking them who they think they are. You shouldn’t just look at people and conclude because some people may have personalities that reflect something different from who they are. Others are just not the type of people you can analyze in a single meeting or a few minutes. There may be instances when an incidence can show you a few people and you can rightly analyze them. Even at that, take time to study and know people.
Note that I am asking you to study and to know them. The two are different things and they must be done together for you to be effectively and emotionally intelligent with your team. You can study people from a distance and never get to know them. You will only draw conclusions based on what you see without knowing why they did what they did. You may end of up concluding based on how people dress, relate publicly and the sides of them they want the public to see. Any judgement made regarding people just by studying them at a distance will not be fair or accurate. This can also make it more difficult to work with the person.
You don’t want to appear as the best judge of character because that’s not what you set out to do as a leader. You set out as a leader to understand your people, know their strengths and weaknesses and be able to get the best out of them. The purpose of getting the best out of them isn’t just to use them but for you to raise other leaders.
That’s why you study and as well seek to know people personally. Relate with them and make your observations. Even with your observations, do not conclude until you understand why they do the things they are doing.
When you understand people, it becomes easier to work with them. It becomes easier to go into projects, disagree on strategies and not be offended because you know you are still working towards the same cause. At some point, you will understand that you are both saying the same thing but using different words. You, as the leader, will then use the words of your team to interpret the strategy or plan so that they can see you are both saying the same thing.
It takes a leader who is emotionally intelligent to not take offence at every slight provocation. There will be several reasons to be provoked when leading people. You will wonder why people act the way they do or why some can’t carry out simple instructions. You will have reasons to believe some people just want to sabotage you and not understand why they delay in jumping on the new project you’re working on.
Master self-awareness. Learn about your emotions and the emotions of others to manage them. Seek to understand the temperament of those you are leading and you will be an outstanding leader. No matter how good you are as a leader, Emotional Intelligence is pivotal to leading successfully at any level or circumstance.