“Leadership is not domination, but the art of persuading people to work toward a common goal.”  

Daniel Goleman

Leadership skills, whether in the workplace, schools, politics, or families can be easily recognized. People who are proficient in the steps required to accomplish goals and achieve their vision are considered good leaders. 

But being a good leader is more than being technically proficient in your field.  There are other important skills that contribute to a leader’s ability to work well with others and lead them to success.

Those skills are referred to as Emotional Intelligence (EI) – “the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others’ emotions.” Daniel Goleman

To bring this definition to life, think for a moment about a great leader that you’ve had in the past. Ask yourself – How did they relate to you and to others? Do you mirror those qualities? Does your personal/leadership style reflect those skills?

With that leader, chances are that you probably felt comfortable expressing your questions and concerns and they likely were receptive to you and made you feel supported, regardless of whether you agreed on the issue or not. 

Working on a team can illicit many emotions, some intense, especially when there are difficult goals to achieve.  Just look at any sports team, if things are going well the emotions displayed will be excitement, enthusiasm, and celebration. When things are bad, the emotions could be ones of frustration, anger or disappointment. Within any team dynamic, understanding and managing emotions plays a huge role in the success of the team and is an important trait of all good leaders.

Emotional Intelligence is Fundamental to Good Leadership

Daniel Goleman, an authority on emotional intelligence in the workplace, notes that “no matter what leaders set out to do—whether it’s creating a strategy or mobilizing teams to action—their success depends on how they do it. Even if they get everything else just right, if leaders fail in this primal task of driving emotions in the right direction, nothing they do will work as well as it could or should.”

This happens wherever there is a leader. A leader with effective emotional understanding and management will help teams to bond, individuals to be more productive and feel more valued and understood.

According to the Harvard Business Review, emotional intelligence is a key leadership skill and for a leader to truly be effective, they must be masterful at managing their relationships in a positive way. In short…to lead a group of people, along with the professional knowledge and experience required for the role, is to have a very important relationship with those people. 

Leaders with a High Degree of EI Improve their Teams and Organizations 

In business, the bottom line is crucial, and leaders are held responsible for successes and failures. Co-founders of the leadership and development training firm Zenger Folkman, Dr. Jack Zenger and Dr. Joseph Folkman gathered more than 100,000 direct reports from employees related to their leaders from hundreds of different organizations and found nine key traits the most successful leaders possess. 

Here are a few that are most related to emotional intelligence:

  • They work to inspire and motivate those around them
  • They focus on collaboration between team members, which creates synergy and a better experience for employees
  • They “walk the talk,” or act with integrity and honesty with every team member
  • They build trust, which stems from consistently acting with integrity and honesty
  • They develop and support others, and they always celebrate the successes of their employees and encourage them to learn more and develop their skills
  • They always build relationships, which communicates that each team member is valued, and that their concerns are important and will be addressed.

Low emotional intelligence among senior team members has been shown to negatively impact the rest of the workforce. This can include low employee engagement or high turn over caused by toxic interactions with leaders and employees. 

Challenging interactions with others is an indicative sign of leaders who need to work on managing their emotions.  Often these leaders find people very difficult and can be unaware that they are part of the problem.

On the other hand, leaders with high emotional intelligence tend to experience the opposite.  They are uplifted by their interactions with people, enjoy being part of, as well as growing a team.

High emotional intelligence is essential to great leadership.  The good news here is that EI can be learned and improved.  Consider this, increasing your EI competencies will not only enhance your working relationships, but will also help to improve your bottom line!