Research has shown that, for jobs of all kind, high emotional intelligence is correlated with high performance. For leadership positions this correlation is even stronger. Emotional Intelligence competencies are among the strongest predictors of top performance for leadership positions.
Emotional intelligence is defined as our ability to recognise our own emotions and those of others. And our ability to manage and influence our own emotions and those of others. Emotional intelligence is a skill and can be learned and improved with practice. Just like a skilled martial artist who practices various katas to build muscle memory, a person who has high levels of emotional intelligence performs various practical exercises to build and maintain his/her skills in this art.
One of the most popular models of Emotional Intelligence is Daniel Goleman’s model. This model is made up of 4 quadrants: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.
The competencies within the self-awareness and self-management quadrants are focused on “self” and are considered to be inwards. While the competencies within the social awareness and relationship management quadrants are focused on “others” and are considered to be outwards. The inward quadrants are focused on how to increase our awareness of our own emotions and improve our capability to manage those emotions. While the outward quadrants are focused on how to improve our ability to understand the emotions of others and how to influence the emotions of others.
Inward emotional intelligence
People high in emotional intelligence have high levels of emotional self-awareness. This means they are tuned in to their emotions exceptionally well. At any given moment they know exactly what emotion they are feeling. They know, for example, if they are feeling angry, excited, nervous, or anxious, or even if they are feeling a combination of all these emotions. People skilled in emotional self-awareness competency are highly connected with their bodies and know exactly how these emotions manifest physiologically in their body.
Emotional self-awareness is the foundation of all emotional intelligence competencies. To improve your emotional intelligence, you will first need to improve your emotional self-awareness. There are various mindfulness techniques that can be employed to increase emotional self-awareness. My favourite technique is the body-awareness practice. In this exercise you will need to pay close attention to your body when feeling various emotions and identify the physiological effects of those emotions in your body. This practice will help you become more in-tune with your body and will improve your emotional self-awareness.
Once you have better awareness of your emotions you will be better equipped to manage those emotions. A person highly skilled in emotional self-management can switch between emotions at will. Again, mindfulness plays a key role in improving this competency. You can employ various physical cues to switch to your desired emotion. For example, if you are feeling nervous and would like to calm down you could take three deep and slow breaths. Or if you are feeling apathetic and want to become excited, you could rub your hands together quickly and grin.
Outward emotional intelligence
Outward emotional intelligence starts with empathy. Social awareness is the capability to understand what emotions are being felt by other individuals and groups. And to be able to understand the emotions of others one needs to be skilled at empathy.
Empathy is one’s ability to experience the world through someone else’s reality. Each person has their own distinct personality, life experience, beliefs, and sensations. The same event will thus be experienced differently depending on who you are.
You can’t simply assume how people feel just by imagining how you would feel in their situation, because you don’t share the same values, motives, and upbringing. To be able to truly empathise with someone, you need to be curious about them and place your full attention and focus on them trying to understand how they perceive and feel the events.
Once you have built your empathy muscle you can use it to inspire and influence others. Great leaders are those that understand others, connect with them on a personal level and touch their hearts. These are the leaders who are highly skilled at relationship management skills. They create an environment where people can be at their best.
Written by Arash Arabi.