Can You Develop Emotional Intelligence as a Leader? Ryan Ayers

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The concept of emotional intelligence first circulated in the 90s, and it gave a name to qualities that most of us can recognize and appreciate, but have trouble measuring. Emotionally intelligent people are better able to understand, perceive, and control their own emotions and the emotions of others. This makes them easier to communicate with, and gives them an edge in the workplace.

The good news is that unlike IQ, anyone can work on improving their emotional quotient (EQ). If you are in a leadership role, improving these “soft skills” is one of the best ways to become a more effective, well-liked manager, no matter what kind of team you’re leading. But how difficult is it to improve your EQ? Here are some insights and tips on becoming more emotionally intelligent.

How We See Ourselves

One of the most difficult aspects of developing more emotional intelligence is that many of us don’t have an accurate idea of how others see us. If you’re in a leadership role, you might have some notions about how your team feels about you, but they’re not necessarily true. It takes an honest outside perspective to help us step back and reevaluate how other see us—and how we see ourselves. In most cases, people have an easier time generating a realistic idea of their IQ—simply because it’s easier to quantify objectively. Getting to know your EQ, however, can take the help of a coach to figure out.

How Difficult is Enhancing Emotional Intelligence?

EQ can be difficult to build, but it’s not impossible. Unlike IQ, which is thought to be mostly fixed, EQ can be improved using the right methods. It takes a lot of hard work, but it’s a good idea for anyone, especially those in leadership positions. Anyone, even those with high EQ can benefit from working on their communications and interactions with others, since this can strengthen relationships both in and out of the workplace.

Strategies for Growth

Improving your emotional intelligence is an ongoing effort, and there will never be a time when the work is finished. However, once you start getting used to the routines of EQ work, it will become easier as time goes on. Here are some strategies for growth that can help you get started.

Start to Track Your Emotions

Tracking and awareness of your emotions is the first step in improving your emotional intelligence. Whenever you start to experience an emotion, take a step back and try to figure out what it is you’re feeling, and why you’re feeling it. Journaling can also help you work through and understand your emotions.

Practice Responding

When we react, we’re just instinctively acting based on our emotions, not thinking about how we actually want to respond. Taking a moment to think about how you would like to respond to someone else can help you become a better communicator and open you up to more positive interactions. For example, if someone gives you constructive criticism, don’t immediately react defensively. Pause, think about how you would like to respond, then continue the conversation in a positive way. Emotionally intelligent people are in control of their communications, and have the confidence to take criticism well.

Don’t Avoid Conflict

Seventy percent of people avoid difficult conversations in the workplace, but avoidance doesn’t help communication—it breaks it down and allows feelings to fester. It’s important to deal with issues as soon as possible, using the interaction to deal with the problem in a healthy way. That means avoiding accusatory or punitive language or body language. Dealing with conflict in this way can actually strengthen relationships!

Get a Coach

Objective feedback and accountability can be just what you need to improve your EQ. Whether you meet with a coach regularly in person, or choose an online coach, an outside perspective can be very helpful in building your EQ and getting constructive feedback.

A Big Payoff

In the end, you can’t control anyone else’s actions but your own, but you can control your reactions. By working every day to improve your emotional intelligence, you better equip yourself to navigate all kinds of relationships, from family to your team at work. Emotional intelligence may be difficult to develop, but with a conscious effort, you can earn a big payoff—better reactions from those around you, and a happier life you’re in control of. It’s a lifelong journey, but in leadership and in life, emotional intelligence will help you reach your goals.