November 15, 2023
March 1, 2024

The Impact of Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

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Have you ever worked with someone who is extremely smart and hardworking but seems to lack all social skills? While these types of high-IQ people can make amazing employees, they don’t make the best managers or leaders. Why? Because they’re lacking in emotional intelligence (otherwise known as EQ). 

What is emotional intelligence and why is it important for leaders to have? Does EQ really make managers better? In this post, we’ll go over emotional intelligence—what it is, why it’s important for leaders, and how you can help yourself and others improve it.

What is emotional intelligence?

If IQ is the ability to use logic and reasoning to solve problems and make predictions, EQ is the ability to understand, manage, and use your emotions in a positive way. EQ helps you communicate effectively, empathize with others, build stronger relationships, diffuse conflicts, and relieve stress. Can you see why that kind of intelligence is important in a business leader?

EQ includes developing and using emotional skills—such as patience, empathy, and understanding—to understand your own emotions and the emotions of those around you, then using that understanding to motivate and help others. When leaders have a high emotional intelligence, they can create supportive, motivational, and happy environments for the employees around them.

Typically, EQ is broken down into four different categories:

  1. Self-management. Controlling impulsive feelings and behaviors and managing your emotions in healthy ways.
  2. Self-awareness. Understanding how your own emotions affect your behavior. Knowing your personal strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Social awareness. Using empathy to understand others’ emotions, needs, and concerns. Picking up on social cues and recognizing power dynamics in a group or organization.
  4. Relationship management. Knowing how to develop and maintain healthy relationships, communicate clearly, influence others, and manage conflict.

While all of these are important for everyone, and we’ll definitely touch on the first two, we’re mostly going to focus on the latter two to see why emotional intelligence is vital for leaders and managers of all kinds.

Why do leaders need emotional intelligence?

When it comes to IQ, all managers and leaders need those “business smarts.” However, for good managers, IQ is just the baseline. The real difference between average managers and amazing leaders is their EQ. Let’s break down the different parts of emotional intelligence and see why each is important in the workplace.

Self-Management and Self-Awareness

Leaders who can manage their own emotions will be able to model the type of behaviors and attitude expected on the team. They will also be able to stop themselves from taking out their frustrations or anger on their employees or bringing down morale on a day they’re feeling out-of-sorts.

For self-awareness, managers who are aware of their emotions, their strengths, and their weaknesses will be able to openly and honestly lead their teams, which builds trust. They understand how they can become better people and better leaders, and they work to make their weaknesses into strengths.

Social Awareness

Social interactions are a huge part of every day at work (even if you work remote!). So managers with high social awareness will focus more on their employees than themselves during these interactions, learning what the employees want or don’t want, like and dislike.

This is all about empathy. Emotionally intelligent leaders strive to understand each of their employees’ feelings and perspectives, and they work hard to communicate effectively with them. Consider this: 92% of employees are more likely to stay at a workplace if their leaders are empathetic and 90% of employees believe empathy is essential to a healthy workplace culture.

Employees want to be heard, understood, and supported. Emotionally intelligent leaders can make sure that happens.

Relationship Management

Relationships at work are extremely important. Studies have shown that social connections at work play an integral role in having a sense of purpose and wellbeing at work. Relationships also facilitate learning, increases retention, improves engagement, reduces burnout, increases performance, and sparks creativity.

Employee relationships with their managers are just as important as any other social connection at work. When employees feel valued and supported by their managers, they’re more engaged, more satisfied, more productive, and more empowered to do their best. 

This doesn’t mean that managers have to become best friends with all of their employees. No, this facet of emotional intelligence simply means that a leader knows how to influence, coach, guide, and mentor others, and that they know how to resolve conflicts effectively.

How can leaders improve their emotional intelligence?

The best part is, just like with your IQ, you can increase your EQ. But it’s not as simple as a few exercises to see immediate improvement. It takes consistent effort and hard work to train yourself to be more focused on your and others’ emotional wellbeing. Here are a few good places to start:

  • Practice understanding your own emotions. Before you can understand and empathize with another person, you have to understand yourself. Keep a journal and regularly jot down how you’re feeling and why. Make small, measurable goals to increase your self-management, such as minimizing frustrated outbursts.
  • Ask more questions and really listen. Asking questions is one of the best ways to learn about the people around you. But only if you listen. Try to ask employees questions such as “how are you really doing?” or “what can I do to make your job easier?” Don’t think about what you’re going to say next! Instead, listen to their responses and try to see things from their point of view.
  • Follow the 80/20 rule. When you have one-on-ones, make sure employees are talking 80% of the time and you’re only talking 20% of the time. Employees need to feel comfortable opening up to you.
  • Help employees achieve their goals. Even if you struggle to understand the feelings employees have, you can still help them do what matters to them. If your employees are passionate or interested in any sort of work-related goal or improvement, do what you can to help them accomplish it.
  • Ask for and welcome feedback. As a leader, you need to understand how you’re perceived by others. 360-degree feedback is a great way to see what you’re good at and where you can improve.

If you want to hold a training or workshop to help the managers in your company develop their EQ, make sure that it’s a continual process. Give them activities to practice and goals to work toward, and then follow up with them. 

EQ, IQ, and DQ—the perfect combination.

Yes, DQ stands for Dairy Queen. What? We love their vanilla shakes. Regardless, whether you have a Dairy Queen near you or not, emotional intelligence is central to the success of any organization or team. Managers and leaders need to learn how to really listen to, empathize with, and support their employees, and luckily there are ways to do so.

When leaders have a higher EQ, employees will love working with them—and that’s a huge component of their happiness, productivity, and overall job satisfaction.