Why Emotional Intelligence Matters in Leadership

Why Emotional Intelligence Matters in Leadership

BY FATINA SEPTIANIE

The Case of the Resistance vs the First Order

If you are familiar with the Star Wars movies, you would wonder how the more technologically advance villain in the film would lose to a group of rebels with limited resource. In real life, Kylo Ren and the First Order would be more likely to win with their genocide machine and resources. The logical analysis of why this happened is down to one thing: The leadership.

Would you rather have a menacing and intimidating boss like Kylo Ren? Or an empathetic one like General Leia? The answer seemed easy. General Leia built a relationship and created trust among the team. On the other hand, the First Order commanded their army based on fear and one-way orders.

But what do people want in a leader? Among other things, the ability to inspire and motivate is frequently mentioned. Being able to inspire the team often leads to perceived respectability and capability. Another survey by Linkedin learning survey in 2019 suggested empathy and compassion as two of the top 5 qualities employee wants in a manager. Ability to inspire, empathy, and compassion have one thing in common. People with high emotional intelligence are more likely to display such qualities.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

The term emotional intelligence is not a new concept. However, emotional intelligence gained its popularity in the 90s through Daniel Goleman’s book. Goleman’s intensive research and writings became the primary reference for application in business, as he does most early emotional intelligence researches.

Does emotional intelligence equal to being emotional?

Emotional intelligence is described as the ability to recognise and manage oneself and influence other’s emotion. According to Goleman, it has five components:

          • Self-awareness
      • Self-regulation
      • Internal motivation
      • Empathy
      • Social Skills

Current research shows that people who have high emotional intelligence do better in the workplace. People with high emotional intelligence are more likely to facilitate cooperation and more likely to handle conflict effectively. Emotional intelligence is also positively related to organisational citizenship behaviour (OCB), willingness to go beyond their assigned task. In the case of Star Wars, the Resistance members willingness to sacrifice and their initiative in the war could be the example of OCB.

 

How to Improve Emotional Intelligence?

The most common misconception about emotional intelligence is the assumption that some people are born with it, and others are not. Similar to any interpersonal skill, we can learn and develop emotional intelligence with one condition: Practice. There are several things you can do to build emotional intelligence skills.

1. Self-awareness is a fundamental part of emotional intelligence.

It is important to be aware of your thoughts to respond to a situation or problem rather than reacting. In a situation, we can either respond or react. React is more of an instinct, emotional-based and short-term thinking. In contrast, respond consists of a more complex thought process and long-term thinking. Practising to respond would impact our ability to be more aware and mindful, as we try to understand the whole situation first.

2. The concept of self-regulation is another aspect that we can improve.

The easiest example would be in managing stress. Stress comes from the perceived inability to take control of a situation. Organising and planning can help us take back our control and also help us think clearly and methodically. On the other hand, over-planning might also be a source of stress, make sure the plan is adjustable and flexible.

3. Empathy is an integral part of emotional intelligence.

Empathy means you understand what others are feeling and their perspective while also providing support. Teams led by empathetic leaders are more likely to perform better and have higher job satisfaction. The first step to develop empathy is to listen to others, through the eyes and ears. Be sensitive to cues that can help, like changes in body language, tone, or facial expression. If observing is too confusing, ask your team members directly. To ensure honesty, create a safe space where they can express their thoughts and feelings openly.

Similar to any interpersonal skill, practice is an important step to build emotional intelligence skill. With all the benefits and advantages of emotional intelligence, why don’t we start practising now?


Want to know more about emotional intelligence and leadership? Listen to our podcast