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Emotional intelligence: a necessary skill for a leader



Leadership is about influencing people. Leadership is a “business about people”, people with different emotions. To succeed in leadership you need more than Intelligent Quotient (IQ), you need Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ).  Years of research point to emotional intelligence as the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. Emotional intelligence can be defined as the ability to understand and manage our emotions and those around us.

This leadership quality gives us that ability to manage ourselves as we respond to certain issues, to manage relationships, to navigate social networks, and to influence and inspire others as leaders.
So to be effective as a leader you will need a high level of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence has so much impact on success as a leader as it influences productivity, efficiency and team collaboration.

The term emotional intelligence was coined by psychologists John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey. The two defined Emotional Intelligence as “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”
Emotional intelligence is made up of four core skills that fall under two primary competencies: personal competence and social competence.

Personal competence is made up of your self-awareness and self-management skills, which focus more on you as an individual than on your interactions with other people.
Personal competence is therefore your ability to stay aware of your emotions and manage your behaviour and tendencies. Self-awareness is your ability to accurately perceive your emotions and stay aware of them as they happen whereas self-management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions to stay flexible and positively direct your behaviour.
Social competence is made up of your social awareness and relationship management skills; social competence is your ability to understand other people’s moods, behaviour, and motives in order to improve the quality of your relationships.

Social Awareness is your ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and understand what is really going on and relationship management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions and the others’ emotions to manage interactions successfully.
Emotional intelligence is directly linked to performance. Research has found that emotional intelligence alongside other important workplace skills is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining about 58 percent of success in all types of jobs.

So emotional intelligence is very critical for professional success. The good news is, even if you were born without it, you can develop it.
A leader with a high level emotional intelligence develops self-awareness that enables him/her to be able to recognize emotions as they happen. One will therefore be able to effectively address problems as they arise and handle any future complications.

Equipped with the skill of self-awareness leaders will be able to manage their emotions. Thus a leader with high emotional intelligence is able to regulate him/herself and stay in control. Anger will not take over his/her behaviour resulting in one jumping into hasty decisions in the heat of the moment.
The nature and the position of a leader requires that a leader keeps his/her emotions in check otherwise he/she loses respect as a leader.
An emotionally intelligent leader practices self-respect. How you treat yourself as a leader is very important because this will be reflected back in the people you manage. If as a leader you respect yourself you will not speak disrespectfully to others even when they make mistakes.

If you have to get good output from people you don’t need to treat them in a demeaning manner but you should treat all people the same in every situation.
If you can manage your emotions it means you can also clearly express your thoughts because you are not pushed to say something because of bad emotions.
Individuals with emotional intelligence therefore have the skill of effective communication. They know what to say and when to say something in order to inspire and motivate others. Great leaders are aware of their own leadership style and their emotions and have awareness of how their style and emotions influences their team. So whatever they do is intended to empower the team.
An emotionally intelligent leader leads with the heart. He shows his emotions and vulnerability and thus can connect with many employees on an emotional level.

Such leaders are not leading from the head only; they are not just cold and calculating, they also display emotions, empathy, and create good relationships that foster teamwork.
A leader with emotional intelligence is not only good at controlling his emotions but is also well tuned to the emotions of others and thus is able to pick up on what is going on around him.
He/she will be able to empathise with others by putting oneself in other people’s shoes and giving helpful response. A leader who is able to empathise with his subordinates will obtain respect or loyalty and will be able to inspire and motivate them into meeting the organisation’s goals.

A workplace is a fertile ground for conflicts due to poor communication among peers and among managers and subordinates and sometimes between the company’s customers and suppliers. Unfortunately, these conflicts can threaten relationships or disrupt efficiency and productivity.
Leaders with emotional intelligence will be able to handle such conflicts and provide an amicable resolution. Leaders can effectively calm any disagreements that arise between employees, customers, and other parties. Thus leaders can use their emotional intelligence to develop a more conducive work environment.
An emotional intelligent leader has a sense of humour. This tends to raise morale among workers. Morale is linked to productivity, and as a leader you should not display an austere attitude, you need to instil a positive energy to the work environment.

A leader without Emotional Intelligence will appear arrogant, rigid or selfish and such traits will impact adversely on productivity and creativity in an organization. Emotional Intelligence is important to a leader because a large part of any leader’s job is dealing with people. If you can’t relate with people you are doomed to fail.
Daniel Goleman, an author, internationally renowned psychologist, and science journalist for The New York Times said “If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going too far.”

l Stewart Jakarasi is a business and financial strategist and a lecturer in business strategy (ACCA P3), advanced performance management (P5) and entrepreneurship.
He is the Managing Consultant of Shekina Consulting (Pty) Ltd and provides advisory and guidance on leadership, strategy and execution, corporate governance, preparation of business plans, tender documents and on how to build and sustain high-performing organisations.
For assistance in implementing some of the concepts discussed in these articles please contact him on the following contacts:, call on +266 58881062 or WhatsApp +266 62110062 .

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