Good leaders motivate their teams to achieve the company’s goals, while bad ones only use fear to get results.
It may seem like a horror story: you start your dream job, you want to develop, learn, and grow, but you hit an obstacle over time: your boss has created a toxic work environment. And –as recruiters say– “people don’t quit a job… they quit their bosses.” So, how should leaders use emotional intelligence?
Elliott Tyler Kruse, research professor at the Business School on Tecnológico de Monterrey’s Santa Fe Campus, says emotional intelligence is the ability to understand not only other people but also one’s own emotions. Both are essential components.
“You can’t resolve conflicts or navigate obstacles if you can’t deal with your own emotions. It’s very likely that leaders –if they have personal problems and don’t know how to deal with them– will take them out on others who have nothing to do with them. That’s bad leadership because it doesn’t resolve conflict. It can even aggravate the situation and create a hostile work environment.”
Anger or frustration shouldn’t be denied, says the expert. They should instead be channeled. It’s not about reacting to every emotion when you feel it.
You have to acknowledge the emotion, think about it, and then decide how to react to it. You can write a note and not send it. The simple act of writing can help you to guide your thoughts and discover exactly what you’re feeling and why.
“Will it help to yell at the person who caused me such emotion? It’ll surely do very little. I can take a few minutes and then talk to the person, ask them why they did what they did, explain to them how they made me feel, and talk to them to solve the problem,” proposes Elliott Tyler Kruse.
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Kruse, who holds a PhD from the University of California, Riverside, adds that not only do you have to understand negative emotions to direct them in a positive way, but you also have to understand positive emotions, because they give you the ability to see what you want, to find out what motivates you, and they help you to identify our vision and values.
There’s no ideal or unique leadership style. Instead, there are many with multiple nuances that depend on personality, context, and situation. That’s why there are business schools where leaders can learn and develop soft skills.
One essential element of emotional intelligence and leadership is developing empathy, which is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes in order to understand their feelings and identify with their situation.
Empathy is a requirement for compassion. Not to be confused with pity, empathy is a way to understand, listen and be respectful. It’s about speaking carefully so as not to hurt anyone and providing as much support as possible.
Tyler Kruse has studied humility: a concept that’s also about positive leadership.
The expert says that this concept isn’t synonymous with poverty, which is what people usually think. “It’s a value that implies understanding others. It’s the opposite of narcissism and can be very useful for developing emotional intelligence. Recognizing that we have the ability to hurt others.”
The Royal Spanish Academy defines it as: “a virtue that consists of knowing one’s own limitations and weaknesses and acting in accordance with this knowledge.” It may be time to put it into practice in the workplace.
Technical skills can be learned and developed in college, but personal social skills or soft skills that are related to dealing and interacting with others are very important and aren’t necessarily learned in college.
Salvador De Antuñano, Director of Human Resources at Adecco Group Mexico, says that it’s very important to learn to be a leader, to work as a team, to comply with rules and to communicate in order to hold a managerial position or run a workgroup.
“In an organization, a great deal of trust is delegated to you by being the manager of a team and, in a certain way, you become the highest authority, even if you’re also an employee. In that sense it’s a great responsibility. However, there are people who are blind to this. They think they are better than others and lead with an attitude of haughtiness and superiority,” he says.
He adds that one of the principles of Adecco and emotional intelligence is having a cool head, a warm heart, hard-working hands, and a curious mind. We know that these are the fundamental pillars that every leader must be clear about and act upon.
A good leader must instill attitude, enthusiasm, energy for the challenges to come, and do things differently.
You must learn to make objective decisions, based on reason and evidence and not your gut.
“When you have leaders who are mature enough, who are able to process information that torments them because perhaps they have a relative in the hospital, are going through a divorce, or are under great pressure at work, they don’t transmit that to their team,” he says.
And it’s about non-verbal communication, as well as verbal communication. “‘What am I saying with my body posture and my gestures?’ When we speak, ‘what am saying with the message and how should I use tone, energy, and manner to express it, to convey interest, enthusiasm, and encouragement?’ Today, when we have to work remotely, we must also worry about how to spark excitement through a screen.”
De Antuñano adds that good leaders don’t surround themselves with loyalists who applaud everything even if they know it’s wrong. On the contrary, they look for talent and they encourage it.
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