5 Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence in Leaders

Leaders need to have a wide variety of skills and traits. Some leaders possess charisma and communication skills, while some are decisive and able to make tough decisions. 

However, that is not enough to be an excellent leader in the world we live in today. The best leaders we need now, and possibly in the future, are those that have a high degree of emotional intelligence (EI). 

But why emotional intelligence? Leaders with high emotional intelligence often display five key characteristics. They are more self-aware, self-regulated, motivated, empathetic, and socially skilled.

We will explore these five characteristics of high emotional intelligence in leaders. Understanding and developing these characteristics can improve your relationship with stakeholders, and ultimately help you be a more effective leader.

1. Self-Awareness

Being self-aware is an important quality for you to have as a leader. Besides, how can you effectively lead others if you do not know who you are?

So what is self-awareness? It is the ability for you to understand your strengths and weaknesses, along with how your emotions and actions can affect those around you. 

Possessing self-awareness gives you the ability to take a step back and assess situations from an unbiased perspective, which will help you make better decisions overall. 

The ability to become self-aware is not something that can be taught. It is something that can be developed through thoughtful introspection and a willingness to grow and learn.  

Here are some ways in which you can build self-awareness:

  • Be honest with yourself: Take your time to reflect on your successes and failures. By acknowledging your weak spots, you can figure out the different things that you should improve on.
  • Observe your behavior: Take notes on how you behave in certain situations. Then ask yourself why you behaved that way and how it impacts those around you. If you are looking for a fresh perspective, seek people you trust to help observe your behavior as well.
  • Seek feedback (and feedforward) from stakeholders: The people around you can see something that you yourself might miss out on. Receiving constructive feedback from your peers can help you on your journey towards improvement, and you must be open to receiving it.

2. Self-Regulation

When it comes to being in a leadership position, the ability to self-regulate is very important. Have you ever faced a moment when your worst behaviors are brought out? Well, an excellent leader should be able to control their own emotions, thoughts, and behavior. 

Leaders who can control their emotions and impulses are better at making sound decisions, building strong relationships, and inspiring others. If you are among those who can regulate themselves, you are often calm even under stressful situations. You will see these situations as opportunities for growth.

Self-regulation is often thought of as something that comes naturally to people. You should not worry too much if you do not possess this trait, as it can be learned and developed over time. Here are some things you can do to practice this particular skill:

  • Start with yourself: When you are faced with a challenge, consider approaching it with a calmer and different approach. This will steer you away from outbursts of emotion. Next, you can find ways for you to manage your stress levels through activities such as meditation and walking.
  • Establish boundaries: By having limits in place, you are then able to effectively manage your time, energy, and resources. Without set boundaries, it is easy to be overwhelmed. Decisions are instead made based on what is best for the team, rather than being swayed by personal feelings. 
  • Understand your triggers: If you are aware of the things that trigger you, you can proactively develop strategies to deal with them. For example, if you know that you tend to lash out when you feel pressured, you can make a point of taking breaks throughout the day to de-stress.

3. Motivation

Leaders with high emotional intelligence will be motivated to achieve their goals and have the capability to motivate those around them. A highly motivated leader can ultimately create a positive work environment. 

An extra dose of motivation can push you to work endlessly, even when faced with challenges. Your work ethic and drive will set an example for your followers. Leaders who demonstrate a commitment to learning and growth will set the tone for the entire organization. As a result, your team is more likely to receive a morale boost and be more productive.

So how can you develop motivation in yourself so you can motivate others?

  • Have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. This will give you and your team a goal to focus on.
  • Be optimistic. When you are feeling down and faced with a tough challenge, an optimistic outlook can be a powerful motivator. Being optimistic is not always easy, but it helps by giving you the perseverance to push through tough times.
  • Recognize the progress that you have made along the way. Celebrate your successes, no matter big or small.

4. Empathy

Another characteristic of high emotionally intelligent leaders is empathy. The definition of empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings. In layman’s terms, empathy is putting yourself in another person’s shoes.

Empathy is a valuable tool that can help you build better relationships in the workplace. If you can empathize with your followers, you can gain their trust, and they will feel more connected with you. You will also be more equipped to deal with conflict as well as be able to resolve differences. 

Here are some ways for you to be more empathic:

  • Take note of a person’s body language. Being able to read a person’s body language can help you better understand what they are saying. Not only that, but you can know how a person is feeling and are thus able to identify potential sources of conflict.
  • Seek a different perspective. Empathy requires an understanding of how someone else experiences the world. This can be difficult if you only interact with people who share a similar background as yourself.
  • Do not jump to conclusions. It is better for you as a leader to think first before assuming why someone acts the way they are acting. Just ask how they are, and be understanding if they do not feel like sharing.

5. Social Skills

You must know that most leaders are often described as ‘people person.’  But what does being a ‘people person’ actually mean? 

Being a ‘people person’ means possessing good social skills. These are skills that provide you with the ability to have good interactions and communication with others while building strong relationships. These relationships are based on trust and mutual respect, which are necessary for effective communication and collaboration.

By developing good social skills, you can be the person delivering the worst news possible, but your listeners will be more likely to listen and understand. Not only that,

leaders with good social skills are not afraid to face conflict as they are able to diplomatically resolve them. You can avoid damaging relationships by seeing both sides of an issue and exploring all options for a resolution. 

In addition to this, good social skills will make you more engaging and likable. People are more likely to want to work with someone who is easy to get along with.

However, developing these skills takes practice. Here are a few tips for improving your social skills as a leader: 

  • Be an active listener: To understand what someone is saying, it is important to listen actively. This means not only just hearing the words that are being said, but also taking the time to process and interpret information.
  • Be clear and concise: When communicating, it is important to be short and straightforward. This allows your message to be understood easily whilst preventing any misunderstandings.
  • Filter yourself: First impressions always matter, and the way you deliver information has an impact on how others perceive you. Filtering yourself helps maintain a professional image and avoids offending stakeholders. 

Related read: 5 Reasons Why (Active) Listening Determines Your Leadership Success

Improve Your Emotional Intelligence (EI)

Now you know how leaders with high emotional intelligence create positive relationships with the people they work with. They control their own emotions and understand the emotions of others. This allows them to be more effective leaders because they can better manage difficult situations and build trust within their teams. 

The more you develop your emotional intelligence, the better the leader you can become. Think of ways you can apply it for yourself beyond the workplace. Every chance you have to work on those skills should be taken advantage of.

If you are curious to learn more about emotional intelligence and how you can develop these five essential characteristics, join our community of global coaches and leaders at Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching®. 

You can learn more about our program by downloading our brochure or speaking to our program advisor.

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