Leadership skills are, in many cases, recognizable. People who:

take initiative;
have a vision;
can strategize;
can plan;
can accomplish goals to achieve their vision;

are considered good leaders. They display those skills when working in a team and, hopefully, their team are appreciative of those skills.

What about other kinds of skills that make a good leader? Not just the technical skills but skills that contribute to their ability to work well with others and to lead their team to success? Skills that make them stand out from the rest?

Think about a great manager that you’ve had in the past. Most likely you felt comfortable going to that person with your questions, concerns, and needs, and they were likely receptive to you and worked to address them, making sure that you felt supported. If you both had disagreements, they were likely respectful and productive exchanges. This is likely because that great manager was blessed with what is known as ‘Emotional Intelligence’ (EQ).

EQ is “the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions, to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships and to manage your own and others’ emotions.”

Consider the football, rugby, cricket, hockey or netball team many of us have played in. Teamwork, especially when attempting to achieve difficult and long term goals, can lead to intense emotions, such as (if things aren’t going well) frustration, anger, worry, or disappointment, or (if things are going well) excitement, anticipation, enthusiasm, and shared celebration. They celebrate together when things go well. They lift each other up when things don’t. Emotions, even on the field, play a huge role in working with others to succeed.

However, all of those emotions, even the good ones, can lead to immense stress under challenging circumstances at work. Understanding and managing both your and others’ emotions in that team setting, just like in a relationship, is an important trait of all good leaders.

Daniel Goleman, an authority on EQ notes that “no matter what leaders set out to do—whether creating a strategy or mobilizing teams to action—their success depends on how they do it. Even if they get everything else just right, if leaders fail in the task of driving emotions in the right direction, nothing they do will work as well as it could or should.”

Many of us have likely been in this situation before. Consider the job you had with a manager that had a negative attitude. They might have had excellent skills in their role, but how they did the job and communicated to their employees was a problem. Think about how you and your coworkers may have felt around that manager—undervalued, disrespected, and not driven to accomplish team goals.

In that kind of workplace, it’s easier to simply keep your head down, do the minimum, and get paid at the end of the month. When employees feel that way, they won’t be happy in their roles, and productivity will decline. It will be more challenging for that team to be successful and achieve their goals.

On the other hand, appreciation, respect, and enthusiasm, together with emotional support and validation, can be contagious. Positivity breeds positivity. Since emotions are strongly linked with performance and productivity, teams whose members feel emotionally supported and appreciated through their challenges and successes will likely be happier and more productive. They will want to celebrate their successes, so they will work harder and more effectively together to be successful. Effective emotional understanding and management will help team members be more productive and feel more valued and understood. EQ is key.

Leaders also need to be able to adapt to changing circumstances in their workplaces, or in their own roles and those of their team members. President Xi of China once said that ”EQ enables an individual to be more adaptable in society”. Being aware of, understanding, and managing your emotions and of those around you helps you to navigate through an ever-changing world, resulting in you becoming a successful leader in it.

According to the Harvard Business Review, EQ is a key leadership skill and for a leader to truly be effective, they must be masterful at managing their relationships in a positive way.

Goleman also identifies:

“The most effective leaders are all alike in one fundamental way: they all have a high degree of EQ. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but… they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. My research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that EQ is essential in leadership.

Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader. This isn’t to say that EQ is enough to get you to that leadership position in your job. You will still need the professional knowledge and experience. However, it means that if you take a leadership role and have a higher degree of EQ, you will likely be more effective and more successful. As emotions are always in a state of change, adaptability is key to being an outstanding leader”.

The great news is EQ can be learned and developed to enhance the leadership skills of yourself and/or your team.

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