Today’s pace of change is relentless. Globalisation and rapid technological innovation have given people the opportunity to mix and mingle like never before.
Despite COVID-19 and working from home, companies are capable of building relationships, collaborating, exploiting new markets and connecting with their clients across the globe.
However, with this comes new challenges such as communication, mutual understanding and respect for one another. And inevitably, the need for innovation due to rapid social, cultural and economic disruption.
Whether a company is innovative depends largely on the leadership team and how their behaviour impacts the organisational culture. The circumstances mentioned above have required companies to change and adapt their leadership style — going from an autocratic leadership to a collaborative approach.
Nevertheless, despite the changes in leadership that we’ve witnessed throughout the years, there is still one quality that has never been as essential as today — and that is emotional intelligence (EI).
In a world that is currently affected by COVID-19, racial injustice and a rise in mental health issues — leaders are facing new challenges that require a different approach. And an important aspect of effective leadership is emotional intelligence. According to research, 58% of an individual’s successful performance is attributed to EI.
Now is the time to focus on emotional sensitivity and empathy — the soft skills that are needed to cultivate a psychologically safe working environment that fosters efficiency, creativity and innovation.
As a psychological construct, emotional intelligence has been defined as:
One’s capacity to perceive, process and regulate emotional information accurately and effectively, both within oneself and in others and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions and to influence those of others.
In other words, individuals with high degree of EI know what they are feeling, what their emotions mean and how these emotions can have an effect on other people.
What does this mean for leaders?
As a leader, cultivating EI is essential for organisational as well as personal success. In a world of uncertainty, a leader who stays calm, controlled and assesses the situation before taking action is more likely to succeed than a leader who shouts and belittles her/his team. In a world of social and racial injustice, a leader with EI can understand the hardships his/her team are experiencing and is able to create an organisational culture that is inclusive and transparent. And in a world that is currently experiencing a rise in mental health issues, a leader who possesses EI is able to recognise the mental and emotional struggles his/her team is experiencing as well as their own.
According to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist and author, there are five elements to EI:
Being self-aware indicates that you always know how you’re feeling, and you know how your actions and emotions can have an effect on the people around you. In a leadership position, self-awareness means having a clear understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.
Tips on how you can improve your self-awareness:
- Journaling is a great tool to help increase your self-awareness. You can start by spending a 5–10 minutes every day or once a week to begin with, to write down your thoughts and feelings. This will help you reflect on areas of yourself that you might not do so on a regular basis.
- Slowing down when you experience any strong emotions such as anger, fear or sadness — slow down to examine why.
Leaders who effectively regulate themselves rarely make emotional or rushed decisions, stereotype or compromise their values. In other words, self-regulation is all about staying in control. And according to Goleman, this element of EI covers a leader’s commitment to personal accountability.
Tips on how to strengthen your ability to self-regulate:
- Practice being calm — Be aware of how you act next time you are faced with a difficult situation. How do you relieve your stress, worry and/or frustration? Do you shout? Do you belittle someone? Deep breathing is a great way to take back your control and calm yourself emotionally, mentally and physically. Our breath is more powerful than we think and focusing on it can help bring clarity to the situation that we’re in.
- Know your values — Spend some time evaluating and examining what your values are. Are you aware of what your top five values are? Do you know what and where you can compromise and where you’re not willing to compromise? What is your own “code of ethics”? Knowing what we stand for makes it easier to wholeheartedly make decisions without regret.
- Hold yourself accountable — Commit to yourself to take full responsibility for your own actions, both the good and the bad.
Leaders who are self-motivated are consistent and persistent towards their goals.
Tips on how you can improve your motivation:
- Reflect and re-examine your ‘why’ — If you’ve been in your role for a long time, it can be easy to forget why you started your chosen career. Taking some time to reflect on why you started can help you get that spark back. Remembering your why will also help you look at your situation from a new perspective.
- Be hopeful and optimistic — Leaders who are motivated usually have a positive outlook on the future, despite difficult circumstances. They possess a growth mindset that helps them view hardships and low periods as an opportunity to learn, thrive and prosper.
Having empathy is crucial in managing and leading a successful organisation or team.
Especially now, with COVID-19 forcing employees to work from home, people are facing uncommon challenges that require understanding, compassion and clear communication.
Tips on how you can improve your empathy:
- One simple yet difficult technique is to try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Make an effort to see a situation from someone else’s perspective.
- Respond to feelings — Be aware of how your communication effects your employees/team-mates. This can be your tone of voice, eye contact and body-language.
- Pay attention to body language — According to Albert Mehrabian, the creator of the 7–38–55 communication model — “only 7% of our communication consists of the literal content of the message. The use of one’s voice takes up 38% and 55% of communication consists of body language”. Your body language simply tells others how you’re feeling about yourself and others. As a leader, it is also important to learn how to read body language as you’ll be in a better position to understand how others are feeling, which gives you the opportunity to respond appropriately.
5. Social Skills
Leaders who possess good social skills in the area of EI are also great communicators.
They are open to hear good and bad news, and they are brilliant at supporting their teams and getting them excited about new projects.
They’re also good at resolving conflicts (internal and external) in a diplomatic manner and managing change. They are aware of their position and aim to set an example with their behaviour.
Tips on how you can improve your social skills:
Improve your communication skills — This is an important skill to learn, especially now that the majority of our communication is happening online and across the globe. How well do you communicate? Are you able to get your point across in a clear and respected manner?
- Learn conflict resolution — As a leader, it’s important to know how to resolve conflict among team members, vendors or customers.
- Learn how to praise others — We all want to be seen and heard. As a leader, praising your employees for their work and dedication can inspire loyalty.
Cultivating emotional intelligence is important for each and every individual. It facilitates our ability to navigate and resonate with different social situations. EI matters in every situation, and can help us live a happy, purposeful and fulfilled life.
Most importantly, cultivating emotional intelligence helps us to create a more caring world. A world that focuses on the importance of healthy, genuine and caring connections that will have a positive effect on our mental and emotional health.