5 habits of emotionally intelligent leaders

5 habits of emotionally intelligent leaders

Trying to build your emotional intelligence to be a better leader? Practice these 5 habits

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May 18, 2018

When you occupy a leadership role, you are required to anticipate and control your emotions, understand emotions felt by others, and continually adjust your communication style to fit varying situations. In other words, leadership performance relies heavily on emotional intelligence. It's vital for leaders to nurture the growth of their EQ in order to practice genuinely effective leadership. 

[ Need help dealing with "that" guy? See our related story: Emotional intelligence: How to deal with your low-EQ boss or colleague. ]

Effective leadership relies on the following behaviors: 

  • The development of shared goals and the collective understanding of how to achieve them.
  • Instilling in others recognition and appreciation for the importance of work activities and behaviors.
  • Creating and preserving a sense of enthusiasm, confidence, trust, and cooperation in the entire organization.
  • Allowing flexibility in decision-making and embracing change.
  • Establishing and conserving an authentic identity for the organization.

Let’s explore five EQ-building habits and several characteristics of emotional intelligence that enable those behaviors. 

Habit 1: Self-reflection

Emotionally intelligent leaders can accurately reflect on and manage their emotional state. Moreover, they can harness certain emotions to solve problems. Practicing the habit of self-reflection allows leaders to find a balance between positive and negative emotions, and understand when to use varying emotional states to achieve particular results. 

[ Working on your emotional intelligence? Learn the behaviors to avoid as you build your EQ: 10 things leaders with emotional intelligence never do. ]

For example, positive moods can facilitate creativity, integrative thinking, and inductive reasoning. In contrast, negative emotions can encourage attention to detail, heightened awareness of error, and accurate information processing. 

Leaders who practice self-reflection can identify their positive moods and leverage them to envision significant organizational improvements. Yet they also understand how heightened positivity may cause them to be overly optimistic about what can be accomplished. Those with high EQs use self-reflection to know when certain emotions have colored their decisions or ideas, and know when to revisit them in a more neutral frame of mind. 

Self-reflection is learnable. It starts by taking time out of your day to pause and ask yourself, “how are you feeling?” Successful leaders make this a regular activity. 

As you increase your ability to reflect, you increase your awareness of the emotional triggers that influence your decision making. With practice, you will be able to control emotional impulses and redirect disruptive moods towards achieving positive results. 

Habit 2: Self-regulation 

Leaders who understand how to regulate their moods are less likely to make impulsive, emotionally driven decisions. They are also less likely to compromise company values. This area of emotional intelligence includes a leader’s dedication to personal accountability and helps build genuine trust in leadership. 

Practicing self-regulation starts by genuinely understanding your personal and organizational values. To build your EQ, give thoughtful consideration to your moral code. If you know what values are most important to you and your company, you’ll be better equipped to make the right choice when emotions are running high. 

An effective leader can hold themselves accountable for their mistakes. Rather than blaming others, the most respected leaders commit to self-regulation and react to problems with empathy and tact. 

One way to practice this skill is to hold back from reacting to situations in the heat of the moment. Instead, write down any negative emotions or comments you’d like to say, and reflect. Communication is key to effective leadership, and by doing this, you can think critically and challenge your reactions to make sure they’re justified. 

Habit 3: Prioritize values 

Leaders with high EQs ignite organizational purpose. They create a genuine identity for the organization by standing behind its integral values. 

Goals represent where you want to go, but values are who you want to be when you get there.

It takes an emotionally intelligent leader to understand the importance of prioritizing company values over specific goals. Goals represent where you want to go, but values are who you want to be when you get there. Who your company becomes in the process of achieving a goal is as important as the goal itself. Emotionally intelligent leaders won’t sacrifice the organization’s values in pursuit of a goal, and they won’t hesitate to abandon a goal if it jeopardizes company values. 

 

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Comments 1

Sanjay,

Sanjay,

thank you for sharing these soft skill habits for becoming a better leader! The connotation many people have of "soft skills" are they are less important or beneath "hard skills." However, I absolutely agree that in order to be a successful leader, communicator or to strengthen personal relationships, these "soft skills" or very important interpersonal communication skills are a necessity!

In your first habit, "Self-Reflection" you said that "Practicing the habit of self-reflection allows leaders to find a balance between positive and negative emotions, and understand when to use varying emotional states to achieve particular results...For example, positive moods can facilitate creativity, integrative thinking, and inductive reasoning. In contrast, negative emotions can encourage attention to detail, heightened awareness of error, and accurate information processing." You made a distinction between positive and negative emotions, and allowed for how one can use these states to still achieve positive results. This comment stood out to me because I've never thought about or read about how I can personally recognize and use my negative emotions to my advantage. This is very insightful to me, and a topic I will continue to explore!

Thank you again!

Best Wishes,
Ashleigh Hicks

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As CTO of Clearbridge Mobile, Sanjay Malhotra has built an agile team of mobile experts who have created award-winning solutions for media, telecom, fintech, healthcare, mobile payments, and QSRs.

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