How Emotional Intelligence Can Make or Break a Leader

Joe Weinlick
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For great leaders, emotional intelligence can be a deal breaker. Without it, it is difficult — if not impossible — to motivate and inspire employees. By understanding how emotional skills play into leadership roles, you can identify your own shortcomings and find ways to improve.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage emotions, both in yourself and in others. Everyone has a certain amount of emotional intelligence, but great leaders tend to be masters. When you can recognize and deal with the emotional states of other people, you are better able to negotiate, handle crisis situations and develop strong relationships. This ability is useful in almost every aspect of leadership.

People with a high level of emotional intelligence tend to be remarkably self aware. They recognize what they are feeling, so they know when feelings are getting in the way of performance. This awareness also helps them manage emotions — calming down after a bout of anger, for example. Emotionally intelligent leaders can think before acting and suppress their impulsive urges. What's more, they can harness their emotions and apply them to important business situations involving critical thinking.

When it comes to great leadership, management of emotions is particularly important in relation to other people. After all, no matter what the industry, business is about people. Because emotionally intelligent leaders are highly aware of the feelings of employees, they are better able to adjust their strategy, communication style and leadership approach accordingly. If an employee is upset, a great leader has the ability to sense that something is off and find a solution. In doing so, he avoids letting problems fester and cause division within the team. Leaders who can identify and manage emotions often have an easier time working with a range of different people. They can build a rapport and find common ground, which leads to friendlier relationships. Because they are more sensitive and responsive, they tend to have happier and more balanced followers.

Emotional intelligence is so important, in fact, that it can make or break a leader. Leaders without emotional skills may rise as a result of their accomplishments and practical abilities, but without emotional skills, they rarely stay at the top. In some cases, the leader's lack of self-regulation can lead to impulsive decisions that damage the company. On an interpersonal level, his inability to relate to employees can make it impossible for him to inspire and motivate. Either way, people who are not emotionally intelligent rarely attain great leadership heights.

While some people naturally have high levels of emotional intelligence, it is also a skill that can be learned. By developing your own emotional management skills, you can become a better and more effective leader.


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