Emotional intelligence, or EI, isn’t a new concept, but it may seem a bit mysterious to those who don’t adhere to its philosophies. Proponents of EI—which some believe is a stronger indication of a person’s ability than their IQ—say it provides skills that can maximize leadership potential and performance.
Business leaders who strengthen their emotional intelligence are seeing the benefits both inside and outside the workplace.
“It’s really about managing our feelings and behaviors for the benefit of our own sense of well-being and developing healthy, meaningful relationships,” says Lisa Gruenloh, a Naples-based organizational consultant and trainer. “When you look at the definition of EI, if you can accomplish that, that’s mastering life.”
One of Gruenloh’s clients, Eric Cioffi, says the EI principles have improved his life and his business, Naples-based Well Vending.
“My new perspective on running this business and growing this business is based around emotional intelligence,” Cioffi says. “I used to have this very false belief that successful business was about being the strongest-willed guy in the room and being the most slick, powerful-pitching salesman out there, and I’ve found that to be a complete fallacy. Had I known about these (EI) concepts earlier, my business would have developed a lot faster.”
The four “pillars” of EI are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Here’s a brief look at how they positively affect leadership.
“Just like people say trust is the foundation of building a team, self-awareness is the foundation of building EI,” says Gruenloh, president of Purpose Journey.
Achieving self-awareness is being able to recognize your emotions, even as they occur. Self-awareness leads to consistency and a willingness to be vulnerable, which are characteristics of strong leaders.
Self-management consists of handling emotions and behaviors with different people and situations. Those who master self-management, Gruenloh says, are less likely to fall prey to “emotional hijacking,” in which a person deals with a stressful situation or individual with an automatic, but unproductive, reaction. Instead, you have a deliberate response to what is happening, even if it’s a stress trigger or hot button for you.
“Nobody wants to work with a leader who flies off the handle. Leaders are under stress every day, so being able to manage emotions and behaviors is so critical,” Gruenloh says.
Social awareness is the product of non-judgmental empathy. You’ll have the ability—and willingness—to be a good “receiver” when it comes to the “passes” others throw toward you. Developing exceptional listening skills and observing body language and facial expression can help you read between the lines of a situation and an employee’s actions and behavior.
“When employees don’t feel heard, they’re not engaged and they’re not going to be as motivated to drive results,” she says. “Everyone wants to feel like they’ve been understood.”
When you are able to communicate clearly and manage conflict effectively through EI, Gruenloh says, you find yourself getting along with everybody in the organization. You put aside your own feelings and step into the realm of the greater good to get the job, task or assignment completed.
“Emotional intelligence provides you with an authenticity— you know who you are, you know what drives you, know what you believe, and you can live your life consistent with your core values,” Cioffi says. “When you know you’re doing that, it’s hard for your resolve to be shaken, and that’s where that confidence develops.”