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Emotional Intelligence and Why It Matters in Leadership Development

Guest Post from Lauren Schuckel

It would be remiss to say technical skills and knowledge aren’t important to be a great leader in your industry. What is often overlooked in leadership development is soft skills. While being a thought leader or a subject matter expert is incredibly important to being a great leader, the ability to understand your peers and those you manage can make or break a person new or currently in a management position.

Whether you are at the beginning of your career or seasoned in your department, understanding Emotional Intelligence and knowing why is essential to becoming a great leader.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Psychologists John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey define Emotional Intelligence as “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” Being a leader is more than strategy, it involves a true understanding of your emotions and those around you. Without this, bad communication, misunderstandings and mistakes can be made.

It’s important to note understanding other’s feelings is just as important as knowing your own. Being aware of your reactions and expressions toward other’s issues, ideas or complaints is the first step to developing Emotional Intelligence.

In many organizations, interacting with superiors and peers is a part of every day life. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to manage these interactions to improve relationships, build trust and create a teamwork culture. A leader must have the skills to handle barriers and interpersonal issues.

Why Emotional Intelligence Matters

Emotional IntelligenceWithout Emotional Intelligence, a person can come off as arrogant, rigid or selfish. These traits can slow or halt productivity and creativity in any organization. Since trust is crucial for a leader, being perceived incorrectly can damage relationships and trust.

If those working with their leader lack trust in them, the motivation to work and implement new ideas or strategies dissipates. This can affect retention and employee satisfaction.  If the people you work with believe they cannot approach you because you appear volatile or rigid, the expression of ideas and an organizations improvement will be affected negatively.

Soft skills, like Emotional Intelligence, are important for leadership development because a large part of any person’s job is dealing with people. Whether those people are co-workers or clients, the ability to communicate is a key to success.

Developing Emotional Intelligence is essential for professional development. Improving listening skills, decreasing conflict and controlling impulsive reactions are key developments that lead to professional achievement.

Many studies have been conducted on Emotional Intelligence. What might be surprising to some is that high IQ does not mean high EI. A person with the combination of technical skills and soft skills has proven to be successful in a leadership position.

Developing Emotional Intelligence

There are many ways to begin developing your Emotional Intelligence. Education is the best way to begin. Attending seminars, reading books and taking courses are some of the most effective ways to start the process. Because everyone learns different, the best way to begin your Emotional Intelligence development may be to try a diverse range of learning opportunities and then focus on the sources that work the best for you.

The Internet is a great resource to finding what you need to get started. From online programs to articles from websites, it’s easy to find the resources you need to become a great leader.

Why Millennials Need to Develop Emotional Intelligence

While developing soft skills is essential for leaders at any age or station, I think it’s especially important for the Millennial generation to improve on this skill. Because of inaccurate perceptions Millennials receive, Millennials need to have the soft skills to combat these types of stereotypes.

To become the future leaders, both hard and soft skills must be fully developed. Emotional Intelligence is a key trait that makes a well-rounded and successful leader.

How do you develop your Emotional Intelligence and what has it meant to your leadership development?

Guest Author

LaurenLauren has been interested in Leadership training since she graduated college in May of this year. Leadership development is a growing part of her interest in developing her job into a career. She graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in English Literature.

Guest Author

Guest Author

From time to time, guest writers contribute to Thin Difference. Topics include leadership, career development, creativity, and mindfulness. Our mission is to "Cross the gap and lead with a new story line," inspiring Millennial leaders.

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  • Let’s Grow Leaders

    Lauren, I’m excited for you in your leadership journey. Thank you so much for your insights here. I agree soft skills are so important, even for the most technical.

    • Lauren Schuckel

      Thank you so much! I’ve learned a lot since starting my career and am looking forward to applying it in my life. I look forward to developing my leadership skills further!

  • Pinkey A. Stewart

    Very insightful article, Lauren. I call it “knowing your people.” To develop emotionsl intelligence, I am conscious of my expressions, feelings, etc.when I work with people. I also observe others, especially my staff and clients, to get a sense how they interact, approach, and react to situations. Having a background in psychology was also a plus for me. One of the earliest books I read that had a great influence in helping me understand myself was Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences by Howaed Gardner. Personal Intelligence in how Gardner described what we refer to as emotional intelligence.

    • Lauren Schuckel

      Pinkey, your comment is a great summation of what the “nitty gritty” of Emotional Intelligence is. I’m going to check out that book you referenced, I really appreciate your insight!

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