Last week I wrote about the personal dimension of emotional intelligence, the impact of our brain’s negativity bias on judgement and perception, the mood map and the optimal performance zone, and a three-step process for managing our emotions effectively. In this article, I address the interpersonal dimension of emotional intelligence focusing on leadership practices that enable people to gravitate towards the optimal performance zone presented below and discussed in last week’s article.
A 2019 study carried by Zenger Folkman, gathered data from 100,000 direct reports from hundreds of organizations. The respondents rated the level of satisfaction and commitment each had with the organization and the effectiveness of their immediate manager. The study found nine vital leadership practices that boost productivity, job satisfaction and commitment. Six out of these practices were related to emotional intelligence competencies and included developing and supporting others, trust, collaboration, building relationships, and having the courage to address conflict early.
The following are some core emotional intelligence-based leadership practices that contribute towards a leadership style that motivates and inspires others and boosts employee performance, engagement, and retention.
Building a Relationship of Collaboration, Openness, and Trust
Effective leaders build and maintain an ongoing relationship of openness and trust. They do not shy away from soliciting candid feedback and are not afraid of showing their vulnerability. Rather than trying to project a know-it-all image, they create a safe space for people to come forward with their ideas and suggestions. They bring people together to work towards a common purpose and common goals and give credit where it is due. Effective leaders are open to negative feedback and make it clear that they too, have development needs and blind spots they need to consistently work on. They lead with a confident humility that never puts down or disrespects others.
Emotionally intelligent leaders have high impulse control and do not act out of anger, frustration, fear, and anxiety. Rather, they process their internal emotional responses and understand where they are coming from and what they mean before taking decisions on courses of action. They have a high level of emotional self-awareness and avoid displacing or projecting their negative emotions onto others. Moreover, they have high frustration tolerance and channel intense feelings of anger and exasperation into constructive and assertive communication rather than destructive emotional outbursts.
Listening and Understanding
Effective leaders are genuinely interested in listening to and understanding others. They have a high capacity for empathy and people around them feel understood and cared for. This does not mean that they do not take difficult or unpopular decisions. It means that they are mindful of the power of their actions over how people around them feel and react. They acknowledge that their influence has a significant impact on employees’ motivation and performance.
Appreciation and Praise
Emotionally intelligent leaders express genuine appreciation and praise and are aware of the importance of these behaviours. People have a fundamental need to feel valued and validated and effective leaders appreciate people’s efforts, opinions, ideas, knowledge, and experience. They are also emotionally present and provide ongoing support and encouragement through coaching and promoting personal and professional development.
One of the most significant characteristics of effective leaders is their ability to give people constructive feedback about their performance. They are not afraid of difficult conversations and give others feedback on areas that require improvement. They also challenge and confront people when necessary. However, they are also aware of the potential destructive emotional impact of negative feedback. They communicate in a non-threatening way that reduces defensiveness and resistance and encourages openness and cooperation.
In conclusion, combined with strategic thinking, commercial awareness and driving towards results, today’s leaders need to give particular importance to the emotional and human factors involved in inspiring and motivating people. Emotional intelligence competencies, together with a solid foundation of values such as respect, integrity, and trustworthiness, provide us with a desperately needed leadership model for the present and future. Achieving the above may sound like a tall order, but through commitment, determination and understanding that we are a work in progress, we can develop into highly effective leaders.