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Building Your Emotional Intelligence as a Leader

Emotional intelligence, commonly referred to as EI or EQ, has been a personal interest of mine ever since I received my first 360 feedback survey. It was a helpful tool to inform me of the gaps limiting my growth as a leader.

At the time, I was confounded by this term. As an extrovert Latina, I had always taken pride in my social skills, so I was shocked and slightly offended that my EQ was not perfect. Yet, the more I read about EQ, the more I could see how important it was and how I needed to work on some of these skills- especially the personal ones-if I wanted to succeed as a leader. Fortunately, as with any skill, EQ can be improved upon with time and dedication. If I was able to do it, so can you. In this blog, I wanted to share some practical advice on how to build your emotional intelligence as a leader.

Defining Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence encompasses a range of skills, including self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and social skills. It involves recognizing and understanding one's emotions and those of others and using this knowledge to guide thinking and behavior in various interpersonal situations. It is a powerful component of effective leadership. -it has proven to build trusting relationships and accountability in the workplace.

The advent and popularity of emotional intelligence can be thanks to Daniel Goleman's emotional intelligence book, published in 1995. As a result, the EQ concept became much more widely recognized. Goleman's model explains how individuals that excel at Emotional Intelligence (or EQ) exhibit the following five behaviors:

  • Know their emotions

  • Manage their emotions.

  • Motivate themselves

  • Recognize and understand other people's emotions.

  • Manage others' emotions.

Furthermore, according to Goleman's research, personal competence has everything to do with a high level of both self-awareness and self-management. In contrast, social competence is all about social awareness and relationship management. Let's delve into each component to gain a deeper understanding:

  • Self-awareness involves self-confidence, awareness of your emotional state, i.e., reading your own emotions, recognizing how one's behavior impacts others, and paying attention to how or what triggers those feelings.

  • Self-management is about keeping disruptive emotions and impulses in check, acting in alignment with your values and principles, and developing resiliency.

  • Social awareness includes things like picking up on the moods of others, the ability to read the room, and developing empathy.

  • Relationship management competencies involve getting along well with others. Those who are well-versed in this competency know how to guide and motivate others. They can handle conflict effectively and clearly express ideas, often known to others as people who inspire change- aka inspirational leaders.

Below is a handy graph courtesy of Positive Psychology to further illustrate these concepts.

How to Build Your EQ as a Leader

How to Build Your EQ as a Leader

Cultivate Self-Awareness: Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence. Know thyself is the name of the game. Start by reflecting on your emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and triggers. An easy way to get a baseline is by taking an EQ-I test or asking others for feedback, ideally 360. Suppose a test or a 360 is not possible. In that case, regular self-reflection and mindfulness practices, such as naming your emotions, can help you become more attuned to your emotional state, allowing you to respond more effectively to challenges and stressors.

Develop self-regulation: Once you are aware of your emotions, it is essential to regulate them appropriately. I recommend practicing techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or journaling. They are essential to managing stress and negative emotions.

One technique that I like to practice with myself and my clients is to" reframe" Effective reframing enables leaders to remain calm, composed, and adaptable, even in high-pressure situations.

Cultivate empathy to increase your social awareness: Empathy is the ability to acknowledge and validate the feelings of others. Cultivating empathy involves being present for others. If you want to improve in this area, cultivate curiosity. Seeking to understand diverse perspectives while demonstrating genuine care and concern- overall humanity- is the best way to do it. Get involved in activities where you can get to know and interact with others that are different from you. Servicing on boards, mentorship, or ERG groups are all excellent ways to work in this area.

Listen to understand: Leaders with solid relationship management skills excel in communication, particularly communication related to active listening and body language. Focus on developing your active listening skills by speaking less and listening more. Use techniques such as mirroring, summarizing, and paraphrasing. As for body language, again, observe yourself first. Is your body language signaling to others that you are closed off to them? Or are you being open and welcoming?

I want you to remember that building emotional intelligence is a dynamic and deeply personal journey. It's something YOU CAN work on. Now, as a leadership and EQ-i coach, I can understand how I was self-sabotaging- my own generational baggage, plus being a hybrid immigrant and first-gen professional, was getting in the way. It took a lot of intentional work to improve, and I'm still working on it in some areas. I'm forever grateful to those who generously gave me the gift of feedback so I could take action.

In conclusion, building your emotional intelligence as a leader is a continuous journey that requires self-reflection, practice, and a commitment to personal growth. You can enhance your leadership effectiveness by cultivating self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

There is no denying that Emotional intelligence is a critical asset for leaders seeking to navigate today's complex business landscape successfully. So if you want to drive positive change within your organization, start honing your EQ skills now.

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