Emotional intelligence? Isn’t that an oxymoron? I actually get that question a lot. It’s easy to see how emotions can seem like anything but intelligent. Emotional intelligence is actually a concept first studied and published by John Mayer and Peter Salovey in 1990. They defined emotional intelligence as the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and other’s feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.
There have been several other researchers to study this concept but perhaps the most widely known is psychologist, Daniel Goleman. He published a bestseller in 1995 entitled Emotional Intelligence – Why it can matter more than IQ. In it, he defined emotional intelligence as the ability to know one’s emotions, manage emotions, motivate oneself, recognize emotions in others, and handle relationships.
You’re probably wondering, what does recognizing and managing emotions have to do with leadership? The ability to understand and manage our emotions and emotions of those around us lends itself to a variety of positive leadership skills. Moreover, there is ample research to show that what distinguishes the best leaders is their level of emotional intelligence.
Recognizing and managing your emotions creates self-awareness. This is a critical element of effective leadership because it gives you a clear understanding of your strengths and areas needing more development. It also helps you perceive how others may be feeling and respond appropriately.
Emotional intelligence also leads to effective communication skills. You are able to identify and clearly express your thoughts; leaders with emotional intelligence know what to say to inspire and motivate their followers.
Emotionally intelligent leaders are empathetic. Empathy allows you to understand another’s point of view (even if you don’t have firsthand experience), to respond in constructive ways during difficult situations, and anticipate the needs of others, whether your boss, colleagues, or customers.
Emotional intelligence is a cornerstone of my leadership coaching programs and will be the subject of many blog posts to come. If you want to know more, subscribe to my email list (I promise never to spam you or sell your email address to anyone).