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How to Be an Emotionally Intelligent Leader

An emotionally intelligent leader is true to themselves, focuses on what matters most, and does so in a way to produce positive results for themselves and others. By Cheryl O’Donoghue

The following is an edited excerpt from the book How to Be an Emotionally Intelligent Leader (While Crushing Your Goals).

THERE IS NO SINGLE FORMULA for being an emotionally intelligent leader. Your emotional intelligence leadership can be expressed in a combination of ways as unique as you. Your mission is to understand WHAT emotional intelligence leadership attributes you possess and HOW you activate those attributes as you lead yourself and others each day. Therein lies the secret of your own success and the greatest wisdom of all.

It’s time for you to be your own, expressly unique version of an emotionally intelligent leader—an authentic leader who is true to yourself, focuses on what matters most, and does so in a way that produces the most positive result possible for you and those around you. And what a worthy goal it is.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the capacity to recognize your own, and other people’s emotions; to know the differences between emotions and label them appropriately; and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior. Since emotions are the centerpiece of our human existence, you use your emotional intelligence just about every time you open your mouth to speak, write a text or any other type of communication, or physically react—to anyone and any situation.

The demand for emotional intelligence skills is set to increase sixfold in three to five years, especially as new technologies automate more traditional and routine tasks.  According to a recent study from Capgemini SE, 83% of businesses surveyed report the need for a highly emotionally intelligent workforce will be a prerequisite for success, and more and more human resources departments will screen for it. Additionally, employees from every corner of the globe are already anxious about the impact of automation and artificial intelligence on the relevance of their skills.

Potential Is Limitless

Out of all the different types of human intelligence (there are 9), emotional intelligence (which includes two types of intelligences—interpersonal and intrapersonal) is the only type we can develop beyond that with which we were born. This is most fortunate news for you because your potential is limitless when it comes to your emotional intelligence development. And that is not hyperbole; that is a widely recognized fact.

Emotional intelligence leadership is simply using your emotional intelligence to lead yourself and/or others toward the most positive result possible, given the variables at play. These variables could include your level of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and the level of knowledge, skills, attitudes of your audience or those impacted by your actions. I’ll also add this: You can’t be an emotionally intelligent leader without demonstrating positive emotional intelligence consistently in your daily interactions. It’s about being a “self-leader” of your emotional responses in your inner and outer world that makes you a more effective leader of others.

Start with Self-Awareness

At a minimum, it is generally agreed, you must demonstrate competence in four areas—self-awareness; self-management; social awareness; and relationship management.

Here’s the approach I’m advocating to you. Visualize and tackle your emotional intelligence development by placing a much larger emphasis on developing your self-awareness first. Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence leadership.

I found in my work leading teams of people in financial services, learning, and healthcare organizations, as well as being an emotional intelligence leadership coach, teacher, and training content creator, that when people put their focus on developing self-awareness, it made it possible to master the other areas of emotional intelligence faster and with greater ease.

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