Emotional Intelligence and Effective Leadership
Jamie K. Tindal
Dr. Larrisha McGill-Youngblood
PADG 5620 Organizational Theory & Behavior
September 2, 2018
Emotional Intelligence and Effective Leadership
Leaders are monumental for companies and organizations across the world and leadership styles have changed over the years to match the diverse workforce. When the term leadership comes to mind one may think of someone who enforces rules or one who makes tough decisions. There is not a set way to be a leader however; to be an effective leader the development of those skills may take some practice over time. To be an effective leader there are different qualities that one must possess, and one popular measure is emotional intelligence that has been used as a tool to measure the effectiveness of leaders. Times have changed because in prior years it was never a good idea to show emotions in the workplace, mainly for women, but the most effective way to win over employees in the current time is through emotional intelligence.
The concept of emotional intelligence was invented in 1990 by two psychologist, Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer. According to Salovey & Mayer (1990), emotional intelligence is defined as the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to us this information to guide one’s thinking and actions (p. 189). They called attention to people’s problem solving in areas related to emotion: recognizing emotions in faces, understanding the meanings of emotion words, and managing feelings, among others (Mayer, Caruso, Salovey, 2016, p. 290). As stated by Batool (as cited in Goleman, 2001) emotional intelligence became popularized by Daniel Goleman who theorized that leaders high in emotional intelligent are key to organizational success and leaders must have the capacity to sense employee’s feelings at their work environment, to intervene when problems arise, to manage their own emotions in order to gain the trust of employees and to understand the political and social conventions within an organization (p. 85).
Not many people relate or connect emotions with the workplace, but leaders must know themselves to understand and manage other people. As stated in Batool (2013), leaders now need to manage and lead an empowered workforce and go beyond the consultative, co-operative and democratic styles of today (p. 87). When leaders take the time to be relatable with their employees it shows that not only are these leaders concerned about work productivity they are concerned with the person getting the work done. For example, a leader can create an opportunity for employers to participate in a service project during work hours. This could be a great way to increase the moral and create a less intense environment among everyone. Also, leaders can take a moment to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Someone may appear to not be working at their fullest potential and instead of chastising them or criticizing them, taking them to the side to talk with them to understand what could be going on. This employee may have had a rough start to their day or a tragic event happened in their life and it’s up to the leader to step up and figure out what happened. Panait (2017) states that emotional intelligence involves the perception of others: when we understand how they feel, this allows us to manage relationships more effectively (p.138). Through these various scenarios, leaders can learn about themselves as well as the people they work with.
Imagine working for a company where the manager is constantly bragging about things they have accomplished, always leading with negative feedback and never encouraging their employers. What if the manager demeaned employees and embarrassed them in front of other employees? How do you think this will affect an employee’s productivity in the workplace? In hindsight, this is not a manager anyone wants to work for. Employees want to feel part of the team and need reassurance that when they have questions and concerns they know someone will be able to provide them with assistance, rather than criticizing them for doing things incorrectly. This type of behavior from a manager brings a negative light to the company and quality employees will resign and take their talents to a company that will appreciate them. A company without a leader with emotional intelligence could be a miserable place to be and instead of employees focusing on their work they are worried about unpleasant incidents that may occur.
Take a moment to reflect on the time the current President of the United States has been in office. One would assume that the person elected for this position would already possess qualities of emotional intelligence because the American people want someone who can understand and empathize about their problems. The President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, has truly made this position his own and his actions have moved toward the negative side. There have been times when President Trump has used social media to bully people, mock a disabled man, use the phrase fake news when the media shares facts about a situation, does not take ownership of what he has done, does not know how to exercise self-control, responds inappropriately to sensitive matters, and has a tit for tat type of attitude. This does not seem like a leader that most people would want to work for and from his actions several staffers, whom he wanted by his side to assist him, have been fired. President Trump is not a lost cause however; he must first take time to understand himself so that he can know how to relate to his staff and become a leader that people admire.
According to Batool (2013), emotional intelligence consists of five components: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills (p. 88). The concept of leadership has evolved so much that these components play a vital role in determining a leader’s success. Unfortunately, no employee is the same so leaders must approach each employee differently to create relationships that will continue to build on the success of the organization. When leaders invest in understanding their staff they continue to learn about themselves and how they can become a better leader. Self-awareness is important because it allows individuals to be conscious of their emotions and understand why they feel the way they do. For example, when one prepares for an interview they first research the company and then do a mock interview with questions that may possibly be asked. A typical interview question is, “What are some of your weaknesses as well as your strengths?” This question can be tough for many people when they haven’t taken time to learn about themselves so taking time to understand your capability and where you may lack is good personally as well as professionally. The older you get the better you are by being aware of where you were in the past, where you are now and where you want to go. According to Mittal & Sindhu (2012), effective leaders are in touch with their gut instincts about the right thing to do in the absence of supporting data. They also recognize their internal warning signs that something might not be the right thing to do despite the seemingly compelling analysis (p. 3). Self-regulation is a way for people to hold themselves accountable for their actions. Batool (2013) states that leaders who regulate themselves effectively rarely verbally attack others, make rushed or emotional decisions, stereotype people or compromise their values (p. 88). Self-discipline is part of self-regulation and should be practiced for helping individuals understand their own values and what they will not compromise. Motivation comes in different forms where positive things and people encourage people to do better. Self-motivation is key for leaders because they must believe that their work is great before anyone else will believe it. No matter what the situation may be, leaders are optimistic about what could happen (Panait, 2017, p. 136). Empathizing with others is a way for leaders to understand the person and not just a name they have seen. Showing empathy is a way for employers is to put themselves in someone else shoes to understand how they may feel or felt. Social skills are the best form of communication for a leader. Keeping people informed about what is going on but also building those relationships with other people. Mittal & Sindhu (2012) note that where leaders get in trouble is providing too much or too little information, delaying important information, and not being candid in their communications to others for fear of upsetting them with “the truth (p. 3).”
If leaders are looking to improve their social skills, a strategy to start with is something as small as celebrating milestones such as birthdays. This is a small gesture that some people forget about but just the thought of someone remembering can build that connection between leaders and employees. Grant it, most people will not tell people their birthdays, but this could be the thing that boosts their morale or just the idea of feeling appreciated. Incorporating a celebration system can be as small as having the office sign a card or having a luncheon. The extent to what is provided will be dependent on the size of the department. This gives employees to chat with their colleagues about topics not centered around work while getting to know one another. Leaders can also create an employee appreciation program once a quarter and have colleagues submit their nominations.
Being a leader is no easy task because often time one takes on responsibilities not related to your job description. However, it is all a learning and growing process. There are times when a leader does not do everything right and there are times when they have accomplished everything on their list. Emotional intelligence is a great way for leaders to be constantly improve their skills as well becoming a better leader.
Batool, B. F. (2013). Emotional Intelligence and Effective Leadership. Journal of Business Studies Quarterly, 4(2), 84-93.
Mayer, J. D., Caruso, D. R., & Salovey, P. (2016). The Ability Model of Emotional Intelligence: Principles and Updates. Emotion Review, 8(4), 290-300. doi: 10.1177/1754073916639667
Mittal, E. V., & Sindhu, E. (2012). Emotional Intelligence & Leadership. Global Journal of Management and Business Research, 12(16), 1-5
Panait, C. (2017). Emotional Intelligence in Leadership. Scientific Research & Education in the Air Force. AFASES, 2, 133-138. doi: 10.19062/2247-3173.2017.19.2.18
Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional Intelligence. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 9(3), 185-211. doi:10.2190/DUGG-P24E-52WK-6CDG