10 Reasons Why Emotional Intelligence Is Critical for Leaders

03/02/2015 02:17 pm ET | Updated May 02, 2015
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Many of us believe great leaders are born, specifically, we attach certain characteristics to our version of what we believe is successful.

So, what are the key traits most of us believe a leader should possess? Passion, vision, fearlessness, infallibility -- might top the list of what is deemed as positive characteristics to define a leader.

Great leaders are aware of their own leadership style. For them, having awareness of how their style influences their team, makes these already great leaders, exceptional. Truly great leaders identify, understand and not only manage their own emotions, but are able to do that with others in a very empowering way. This is referred to as having emotional intelligence.

The original definition, as coined by the team of Salovey and Mayer (1990) is:

Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to the collection of abilities used to identify, understand, control and assess the emotions of the self and others.

The following are 10 important reasons why emotional intelligence matters:

1. Compassion

Leaders possessing emotional intelligence are not afraid of the emotions of others. They do not manage just from the bottom line. Their style is about growing an organization that cares about their employees and anyone who conducts business with them. Everyone is treated with consideration.

2. Effective Communication

Leaders who share their vision or strategy often with those around them, so everyone is on the same page, lead a more efficient workplace. Motivation comes from effective communication. Clarity and consistency in stating a thought or directive gives employees the ability to understand what is expected or needed from them. This extends itself to being able to listen without judgment, keeping emotions under control and to ask questions when necessary to seek to understand. People have to believe in their leader, and communication is a key to that credibility.

3. Self-Awareness

Clarity on strengths and weaknesses is important for any leader to recognize. With self-awareness a leader can focus on the strengths he or she possesses, while hiring individuals who perform well in areas where the leader lacks astuteness. Having awareness includes understanding others and promoting their strengths. If a leader lacks awareness, they may buy into their own press clippings and take crazy risks, without introspection; or, they may fail to connect their actions and words, and be be potentially demoralizing to their subordinates.

4. Authenticity

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.

(Lao Tzu)

Knowing oneself and acting from that truth draws people to a leader. Being real, making decisions that are in alignment with how a leader truly operates rarely requires second-guessing. Such a leader must understand their own values and be consistent in applying them. As part of that, the leader needs to possess the courage to hold true to them, without losing sight of reality.

5. Respect

Respect is not just about others; the emotionally intelligent leader practices self-respect. How a leader treats themselves matters, because it is reflected back in the people he or she manages. A leader who respects themselves and others doesn't speak disrespectfully at any time, even when mistakes happen. The way to do get the best out of people is not through demeaning behavior, but by treating all people the same in every situation.

6. Leading With Heart

Leaders who have passion show their emotions and vulnerability, and they connect with many employees on an emotional level, too.

Many leaders are analytical, but if they are just cold and calculating, there may be too much distance between them and their subordinates to truly be on the same team. Dictatorships don't work in a company, especially as a long term solution to employee engagement or loyalty. Although, this doesn't mean a leader with heart is a pushover or puts up with inappropriate behavior (or sloppy work) either, it means addressing a subordinate with warmth. Detached directness without empathy is brutal.

7. Sense of Humor

If a leader is serious all the time, then it creates a very austere environment. Some leaders are afraid to be light, because they want to be taken seriously. It's usually a sign of insecurity. An emotionally intelligent leader presents balance. People tend to work harder and smarter when there is a sense of fun. Morale is linked to productivity, and as a leader, this means to instill a positive energy to the workspace.

8. Confidence

As a leader, there will be crisis and calm times when things are not moving forward. Whatever size the business, it's important to not fall into overwhelm or overreact. People look to the leader for cues on how to respond to the circumstances and if a leader is confident while taking care of issues, it will help keep the team feeling the same. Great leadership is about having the confidence to make decisions and not second guess them.Those who inspire others to follow into the unknown, do so possessing self-confidence.

9. Intuition

Intuitive leaders make quick decisions based on a lifetime of accumulated wisdom and understanding. Leading a team through new territory, without a map, means everything is uncertain, and the higher the risk, the higher the pressure. Logic is important, but can't be the only determining factor for making a decision. A leader who trusts his or her gut will take the necessary measures that inspires others to do the same.

10. Creativity

In a study conducted by IBM, 200 CEO's stated: "Today's business environment is volatile, uncertain and increasingly complex. Because of this, the ability to create something that's both novel and appropriate is top of mind." Not all decisions are cut and dry, it's about being able to deviate from the set course and look outside of the box for a different option. Collaborative brainstorming with no holds barred can bring an entirely new and creative solution to a challenge. Innovation is the result of creativity. A leader who confidently promotes diverse creative thinking, will arrive by taking quantum leaps that create innovations.

EQ is important to being a great leader. I believe in leading beyond maximum potential and delivering results that matter, if you are too, please email me: