Research shows that people with high EQs are more likely to be successful than people with high IQs. Especially for leaders, who have to manage teams and organizations, navigate change, resolves crises, guide everyone and more, emotional intelligence an essential tool.
Unlike most other skills, emotional intelligence is a very subtle science where there are no well-defined methods and procedures to master the skill. Developing EQ needs several elements such as observation, compassion, empathy, emotional knowledge, practice etc.
In short, there is no step-by-step manual that you can follow to improve your EQ, but the following areas are a great place to get started:
1. Learn to respond, not react
Instead of reacting to a bad news with an agitated behaviour, emotionally intelligent leaders take the time to first process the information, analyze and then respond.
There is a subtle but very important difference between responding and reacting. While the former is a consciously chosen action, the latter is something that slips out unconsciously without your consent.
Such impulsive behaviour doesn’t befit a leader and further aggravates the situation.
Here’s an anecdote, and the lesson to learn from it – Nelson Mandela was on a trip when the engine failed mid-flight and they had to make an emergency landing. The pilot traveling with Mandela said that he didn’t show the slightest sign of anxiety or fear and calmly continued reading the newspaper. When Mandela was later asked about this event, he admitted that he indeed felt frightened, but he just decided to not show it.
2. Work on being a good listener
You see, more often than not, nobody is going to come and tell you how they are feeling. It’s up to you to decipher that.
It’s the small things such as a slight hesitation in the voice, a passing expression of discontent, a minor change in the pitch of the voice that help you recognise the emotions going on in the other person.
In order for you to catch these fleeting expressions and hints, you have to become a good and observant listener.
Bad listeners glaze out when the other person is talking; they are only half listening to the other person and are almost always not paying attention to details. This makes you incapable of reading between lines and understanding what’s going on in the other person’s head.
The next time someone is talking to you, drive out all the thoughts from your head and focus completely on the other person by paying attention to details in their body language and actively listening to them.
3. Genuinely try to learn more about the people you lead
First, put the effort to select the right kind of people for your team or your organization and then do all you can to genuine understand and get to know them.
An emotionally intelligent leader tries to know more about each employee, what their interests are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, etc.
Also, showing genuine interest in their personal lives makes the employees feel more valued as opposed to just another cog in the machine.
Say two of your team members are in a fight with each other, and it’s up to you to resolve the problem. In crisis situations like these, knowing the employee and their personality could really pay off.
Additionally, a leader who cares enough to really know their employees is well-respected and accepted by the employees.
4. Become more self-aware
Emotional intelligence is as much about understanding and managing your emotions, as it is about others emotions.
Pausing to understand your emotions and finding a way to manage them is how you get started on developing emotional intelligence. You have to master yourself first to be able to master others.
Here are some suggestions on how to improve your self-awareness and thereby, your EQ:
- Journaling every day is a great way to retrospect and give shape to your emotions and thoughts.
- Surround yourself with people who are emotionally intelligent and who are willing to give you constructive criticism.
- Meditation and introspection can help you get in touch with yourself.
- Readings books rich with people and their psychology like those of Ayn Rand will help too.
5. Become the master of empathy
Even if you don’t take away anything else with you from this article, remember this one simple rule – Empathy is directly proportional to emotional intelligence.
The more you practice walking in someone else’s shoes, the more your emotional quotient will grow.
One effective way to develop empathy is by making conscious effort to ask yourself thought-provoking questions such as ‘Why did he/she react this way when they could have reacted that way’, ‘What was their thought process’, ‘What would I have done’, etc.
At first, you may just answer yourself ‘I don’t know’, but keep at it and you will soon begin to get different answers, which may totally alter your perspectives.
Leaders often deal with complex situations involving other people such as ethical dilemmas, office dramas, employee crisis, harassment and bullying at work etc. To effectively mitigate and navigate these situations, it’s important to master EQ. For a leader, it is a far more important asset than an IQ.
“People’s emotions are rarely put into words, far more often they are expressed through other cues. The key to intuiting another’s feelings is in the ability to read nonverbal channels, tone of voice, gesture, facial expression and the like”