If you’ve read our Beginner’s Guide To Emotional Intelligence, you’ll understand how important it is to work on your emotional intelligence in the workplace. But if you’re a leader, how do you ensure that you’re setting yourself up for success?

The demands of leadership are often two-fold, simultaneously managing pressure from above and pressure from below. Balancing these two factions can be difficult, and if you don’t have the right grasp of your own emotions and behaviours you’re likely to hit a road-block at some point in your career. Whether you’re starting out in management or have been leading staff for decades, focusing on specific areas of emotional intelligence and taking developmental steps towards improving your leadership style will be invaluable to your career progression.

Which parts of Emotional Intelligence are important for leaders?

According to research using Multi-Health Systems’ EQ-i 2.0 model, there are four fundamental areas you need to be focusing on if you want to be emotionally effective.

1. Authenticity: a leader who serves as a role model for fair behaviour

2. Coaching: a leader who supports employee growth

3. Insight: a leader who shares a purpose and vision for colleagues to follow

4. Innovation: a leader who values knowledge and views challenges as learning opportunities

A leader who develops these areas of his or her emotional intelligence is likely to engage subordinates effectively, and ultimately make a more successful leader.

What can I do to become an emotionally effective leader?

The first step on the road to emotional effectiveness is self-awareness; without knowing where your strengths and weaknesses lie, you’ll struggle to make significant progress towards emotionally effective leadership. Our Beginner’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence gives tips on how to identify strengths and weaknesses in the workplace, so that’s a good place to start.

To improve your leadership style in general, there are 8 steps you can take today that will help make you a more emotionally effective leader.

Key to being a successful leader is the ability to make your subordinates want to follow you. If they don’t, you can’t lead them. And the best way to make people want to follow you is to make them feel valued and valuable. Try brainstorming some projects that you and your team, or the organisation as a whole, can take part in. Make sure there are elements for every team member to engage with, and make it a worthy cause. You could end up solving two problems in one fell swoop if you come up with an initiative that both inspires your followers to take action and practices corporate social responsibility.

Although being enthusiastic and passionate about a particular project will impress your bosses, you may be alienating your subordinates if they aren’t as enthused. Before jumping head-first into a new project, put your ear to the ground and listen to the mood of your team. You may find an equal level of enthusiasm, but you may hear some concerns, gripes or potential problems that you haven’t considered. Try blocking out some time for your team to discuss upcoming projects, or the work environment more generally. Make the atmosphere open: during that time, your team can express any concerns and you’ll take them on board and address them where necessary. Your team will respect you, and you’ll gain insight that you may have otherwise drowned out with your enthusiasm.

Understanding other people’s feelings, as well as their job responsibilities, is a fundamental skill when building any type of relationship, and an effective working relationship is no different. If you don’t understand the individual members of your team, you won’t be able to create an environment where they feel valued and they won’t be willing to give 100% to the business. Before your next team meeting, take the time to consider each person individually. Write down:
– Each person’s specific needs
– How each person will react to things you say
– What questions you can ask to get to know them better
After the meeting, reflect on what your predictions were and adjust them for next time. If your predictions were wildly off, perhaps try starting the next meeting with a team-building exercise to get people out of their shells and give you an insight into their personalities. Taking the time to consider each person as an individual will build stronger relationships than just viewing them as a collective.

Each person is unique. Even in the corporate machine where it might feel like everyone has the same goals and the same burning desire to progress, it is still vital to see your team as people not as cogs. Find a way of getting to know what motivates your staff, what each person likes or dislikes, whether they’re a cat person or a dog person – each little nugget of information you gain will help build an overall picture of that unique individual, which you can use to develop processes or projects to motivate each person most effectively. And if these nuggets don’t arise naturally in conversation, create an environment where they do by taking the lead. Talk about your personal life, discuss what you had for dinner last night, complain about the state of the housing market. Get to know your staff on a deeper level, and let them get to know you too.

As a leader, you no doubt have an untold number of strengths. And you no doubt capitalise on your strengths daily. But what about your weaknesses? To be respected as a leader you need to recognise your own weaknesses and let others know that you aren’t perfect. Sure, spend your day writing proposals if you’re a wordsmith, or crunch the numbers if you have a burning desire to be a mathematician. But if your primary school maths teacher despaired of your multiplication skills, leave the numbers to somebody else. Not only will this ensure things are done properly, it will leave your team feeling valued, respected, and that you’re a fallible human being.

Emotions are one of life’s intangibles; sometimes they are there for no explicable reason. But in the workplace you need to lead by example and try to understand the reasons behind your emotions. Instead of just feeling anxious and letting your emotions influence the working environment, take some time to write down or verbalise why you are anxious: is it because there’s a big project deadline coming up and you’re concerned the team won’t meet it? If so, explain this to the team! Using emotional language (i.e. saying you’re anxious because of X, Y and Z) will ensure better communication within the team and will make you more human and relatable.

When it comes to problems, leaders are the go-to solvers. You’re expected to come up with solutions quickly and efficiently, and your reputation for being all-knowing often precedes you. However, trying to balance emotion with logic often causes failure when leaders either listen too much to their emotions or they don’t listen enough. So where is the perfect balance? The short answer is that there isn’t one. But accepting there is a tension between logical and emotional responses to problems will help you find a good middle-ground. Next time someone comes to you with a problem, hit the pause button and analyse your options from two angles: the emotional angle, where you consider your emotions and those of others involved; and the logical angle, where you consider only the most efficient way of resolving the problem. Concentrate on a solution that harvests the best parts of both angles.

…but don’t be too easily swayed by others. It’s important to adapt your behaviours and language to specific audiences, so that you are understood easily by others, but you won’t be respected if you cave to every other person’s whim. Take a few minutes to assess your own values. What do you want from your job? What motivates you? What end goals are you pursuing? Jot down a list of 5 or 6 key driving values you can identify within yourself – these are your roots, and adaptation to audience should never come near to altering your roots. Be respectful and tailor yourself to the emotional needs of others, e.g. avoiding particular language around sensitive people or adopting a particular attitude around a stressed colleague, but also be respectful of your own values and remain true to yourself.

So there we have it: 8 ways you can become a more emotionally effective leader. Even if you aren’t a leader, working on your emotional intelligence in the workplace will have a positive impact on your relationships with those around you, giving you the ‘soft’ skills necessary to work your way up the ladder.

For further information on how PCL can help develop your or your team’s emotional intelligence, visit our Emotional Intelligence page, download our Beginner’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence, or get in touch with us today.