Why Every CEO Should Strive To Develop Emotional Intelligence

When it comes to business leadership, you may find things such as personal development a bit trivial. However, just as your company sets out to meet strategic goals, you should also do the same.

Developing emotional intelligence should be at the top of your list. The current challenges that CEOs are facing make emotional intelligence more important than ever. Leaders should tap into not only their IQ but also their EQ so they can lead effectively in these challenging times.

Emotional intelligence is the capacity of individuals to recognise their own and other people’s emotions. It is the ability to differentiate between a variety of feelings and label them appropriately. It is the bedrock for relationships both personal and professional.

Leaders use emotional information, or cues, to guide thinking and behaviour and having a high emotional intelligence allows you to relate and interact with others in an authentic and meaningful capacity. Possessing high emotional intelligence is essential for authentic leadership.

Leaders are far more successful when they can observe, recognise, and adapt based on their own emotional field and the emotions and projections from colleagues. For example, a leader who is making a strategic business decision that may eliminate an entire department has to do so carefully to preserve loyalty, morale, and the overall functioning of the company. The decision, in this case, must be made but using high emotional intelligence, the leader can deliver the news and create a safety net for employees impacted. If the budget does not allow for a safety net, the leader can at the very least tap into the emotions of those impacted and make sure they leave feeling valued and heard.

Emotional intelligence encourages you to listen. Not just hear what the other person is saying, but really comprehend and read between the lines, the body language, and the vocal intonations. By taking in these elements, leaders can better understand others and initiate change in progress within their companies that is backed by buy-in.

Making That Resolution A Reality

There are a few tactics leaders can engage with to build upon emotional intelligence.

Flip the script. Can you pinpoint why others act the way they do? Are there any hints or clues you can gather to help you see the world through their eyes? Maybe their boss treats them in a similar manner. Maybe the behaviour is out of jealousy. Trying to see the other side, no matter how difficult, can be a very powerful tool.

Respond, don’t react. It can be easy to react to emotional stimuli, especially if it is negative. When confronted with aggression, dominance, snark, or outright rude behaviour, take a moment to identify the emotion you are feeling. This identification will help strengthen your emotional intelligence.

Read the room. Challenge yourself to notice body language and silent cues. When you are watching a movie, television show, or commercial, or simply sitting on the train, notice the body language of those around you. Can you determine what others may be feeling? Make it a game so you are continually practising your skills and then unleash this practice in the office.

Label your feelings by intensity. Are you feeling a low, medium, or high emotion? Imagine your colleagues throwing you a surprise party. When you walk through the front door do you feel happy (low intensity), elated (medium intensity), or speechless (high intensity)? The same goes for negative feelings. If your colleague makes a huge error on a report that costs your company thousands of dollars. Are you angry (low intensity), irate (medium intensity), or belligerently furious (high intensity)?

Trust your gut. Emotional intelligence and intuition go hand in hand. Be aware of what your intuition tells you and give it a little thanks from time to time. The more you learn to trust your gut, the better your emotional intelligence will develop. Enhancing your emotional intelligence will not occur overnight but over time it will become more natural to you and more noticeable to your teams and stakeholders with whom you interact with.

Embrace your vulnerability. When you share your shadow side appropriately, that is, share your shortcomings as a teachable moment or admit your challenges among your cohort, you open up the gates of connection. Humans connect through vulnerability. By being honest and not filtering your personal journey, you can develop meaningful connections with others and enhance your emotional intelligence.

Forgive yourself. Along the same lines of vulnerability, remember that you are human, and you are flawed. Things are going to upset you. Work will stress you out from time to time. The best thing you can do is take each situation you encounter and learn from it. Our mistakes are our greatest teachers. High emotional intelligence also means having a high degree of self-compassion and self-awareness.

Awareness Is Key

Above all, awareness of your own emotions and those surrounding you is key. Once you process that information it is up to you to determine the most appropriate way to respond (not react). Over the past two years, our world has seen unprecedented changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, it is important to embrace the humanity we each possess and demonstrate authentic leadership through elevated emotional intelligence. When we model this behaviour, we inspire others. After all, isn’t that what leadership is all about?

Make the commitment to yourself to develop your emotional intelligence. If not now, when?

About the author: Salman Raza is founder and CEO of training and development consultancy Razalution Bureau.

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