As a business leader, you have the incredible opportunity to foster success in your organization and team. Investing in leadership skill development is certainly worth it — not only for the tangible ROI but also with regard to personal growth among all workers on board. The most effective training initiatives are those that nurture emotional intelligence. Doing so can bring tremendous innovation, motivation and progress within your organization.
Why Emotional Intelligence Is Important in Leadership
Transformational leadership skills encourage empowerment, innovation and independence, all leading to higher team performance. This type of leadership goes hand-in-hand with emotional intelligence.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Depending on which dictionary or reference you pick up, you may see emotional intelligence defined, as Oxford Reference does, as the ability “to monitor one's own and other people's emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking” and behavior.
However, when you define emotional intelligence in leadership, consider the emotional intelligence of executives, directors and managers, the effects on their direct reports and the interpersonal relationships between team members. Here are two examples of using emotional intelligence in the workplace:
1. Employee Performance Evaluations
Conducting an employee review can be a very positive experience; however, it can become emotionally charged. When you as a leader have a high emotional intelligence quotient (EQ), the outcomes are far more positive — both in the meeting and for ongoing success. In fact, according to a study about conducting employee reviews, leaders with high EQ are associated with employees having greater job satisfaction regardless of the EQ of the employee being reviewed.
2. Conflict Mediation Between Team Members
One recommended tactic when mediating conflict between team members is to regulate your emotions first. As a core piece of emotional intelligence, this allows you to avoid adding to an emotionally-charged environment so you can remain impartial. Leaders should use an impartial take on situations to diffuse tension and move toward conflict resolution.
Traits of an Emotionally Intelligent Leader
Many successful leaders have a high EQ, even if they’ve never undergone an evaluation. Emotional intelligence in leaders is often accompanied by these traits:
- Empathy. An empathetic leader understands the feelings of others.
- Compassion. As opposed to simply understanding the feelings of others, a compassionate leader will take steps to solve what is causing the feeling.
- Approachability. Leaders who are open to positive and negative feedback don’t react emotionally to negative feedback. An approachable leader helps cultivate a culture of trust.
- Dialogue prioritization. In contrast to a boss that argumentatively defends a decision, effective leaders are often humble and open to dialogue with their team when appropriate.
- Accountability. Emotionally intelligent leaders accept responsibility for mistakes and offer genuine apologies.
Although the above traits are common in leaders with a high EQ, emotional intelligence is formally broken down into four key competencies:
- Social awareness
- Relationship management
As a leader, you are more likely to have a high-performing team if you are competent in each of the four areas.
Team Impact of Poor Emotional Intelligence
When looking at how emotional intelligence affects leadership, business and team performance, the most important thing to know is to understand what happens when it isn’t there.
Poor emotional intelligence in leadership roles can significantly harm business success, team dynamics and — ultimately — the human beings on the team.
When examining the role of leadership emotional intelligence, trends quickly emerge about the team impact of poor emotional intelligence.
Employee trust in leadership quickly erodes in a highly emotional workplace. They often experience negative emotions at work, including feeling underappreciated and powerless.
Communication deteriorates as team members don’t feel confident in sharing their opinions, making recommendations, or asking for assistance. As communication weakens, motivation also fades, often resulting in mediocrity.
Finally, the company’s reputation can be negatively affected as turnover increases.
Outcomes of High Emotional Intelligence for Leaders and Teams
The importance of emotional intelligence in leadership can’t be overstated. There is an additional benefit when your salespeople develop their emotional intelligence skills as they become leaders in their own right. You will quickly see your sales team energized and key performance indicators skyrocket when you and your team work together to build and improve:
As you become stronger in each of the four emotional intelligence competencies — self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management — confidence increases. And with that confidence, you and your team will be better able to adapt and respond to change and support each other through the process.
Teams that collectively embrace empathy create their own culture of trust where each person can take ownership of the work they produce and the mistakes they make. When you and your team are accountable for successes and failures together, you create an environment of excellence.
Being socially aware, one of the four competencies means understanding and respecting the unique styles of those around you. When sales team members do that, team communication and collaboration work together to amplify success.
Although some consider the role of a motivator to be exclusively filled by a team leader, something magical happens when every member can inspire one another. Mastering sales motivation begins to happen intrinsically as team members understand the impact of a positive and uplifting environment.
Emotional Intelligence and Transformational Leadership
Leaders with strong emotional intelligence — whether executives, sales managers or sales team members — have a skill that is core to transformational leadership.
For long-term changes, a transformational leader encourages others to grow professionally and personally, transforming their motivation process. Although transformational leadership delivers performance results, it isn’t based on doing the job. Instead, the focus is to lead the follower to be self-driven.
To learn more about how to enhance motivation, morale and performance in your team, explore An Introduction to Transformational Leadership.