Well, when most of the world is busy talking about AI – Artificial Intelligence, I want to talk to you about EI. More specifically EI in leadership roles.
Whether one is officially leading a team – as in, it’s their designated role to guide a group of individuals to achieve organizational goals – or they are a natural leader who takes on the responsibility of motivating and inspiring people to work together toward a common objective, they are, indeed, a leader. In my case, holding the position of Head of a Service in my organization involves leading a team of individuals, making me a leader in that context. Similarly, my friend Sam, who organizes street parties for our neighborhood, is also a leader. In this role, Sam brings people together and guides them in working toward the shared goal of hosting a successful and enjoyable party for all.
Emotional Intelligence is the skill and ability to understand our own emotions and those of others, and then successfully navigate them to achieve desired outcomes constructively. EI serves as the foundation for building successful professional relationships in the workplace or any other relationship outside of work.
The main aspects of EI include self-awareness and awareness of our surroundings and the people around us. The ability to regulate our own emotions is crucial. Individuals with high EI are excellent motivators and can foster resilient team dynamics. Their ability to understand others’ emotions makes them highly empathetic leaders. The connections empathetic leaders build with their teams are stronger because they comprehend their team members’ concerns, recognize challenges, and help them overcome those challenges. This enhanced understanding between the team and the leader promotes clear and effective communication within the team. Exceptional leaders with high EI tailor their approach according to the needs of individual team members.
Leaders with high EI can comprehend the emotions involved in disagreements and are better able to find common ground to resolve conflicts. They are well-informed about available information and subtext, capable of reading between the lines and making balanced decisions considering all aspects. In a nutshell, leaders with high EI are both people-focused and delivery-focused, leading high-functioning teams with an outcome-focused approach. Such leaders provide psychological safety to their teams, fostering an environment where innovative ideas are brought to the table, leading to improvement and progress. These teams face challenges together and celebrate their success collectively.
Not having leaders with any or low emotional intelligence can have detrimental effects on the team’s morale. It leads to a toxic and hostile work environment where a blame culture flourishes. Team members work in silos, as these leaders are only focused on tasks and activities, not on common goals. They tend to micromanage rather than empower team members. Favoritism, biases, poor decision-making, ineffective communication, discrimination, and exclusion can all be found in these teams.
I have been fortunate to work with some visionary leaders with high EI, who encouraged me to experiment with my ideas and supported me throughout. These leaders inspire me, and even though we don’t work together anymore, our professional connections are such that I can still tap into their wisdom
In my over 25 years of working in various industries and within the National Health Services (NHS) for the last ten years, I have had the privilege to lead multiple teams. I always made sure to connect with my team members at a deeper level and understand what matters to them, and what excites them to come to work and contribute. I always make sure that my team members know that our team is a safe place and they can take reasonable risks and are allowed to fail because that’s where learning comes from. I make sure that we celebrate our individual as well as collective successes as a team.
Once, I took charge of a team where two team members had just returned from long-term sickness, and one had lodged a grievance regarding their pay. I held individual meetings with them and listened to their concerns in a non-judgmental way. Understanding where they were coming from informed my next actions. I could better support the staff who came back from long-term sickness, and they became highly productive and valuable members of the team.
The person with a grievance regarding their pay was encouraged to follow the procedure and got the closure they needed, allowing them to better focus on their job and responsibilities. In my experience, when my team members know that I have got their back, they are willing to go above and beyond. They perform at their optimum level and believe in the vision of the organization.
I know what kind of leaders I want to work with and what kind of leadership style I want to nurture for myself and my team; one where all team members have high emotional intelligence (EI)!
-Preeti Sharma is a certified Life Coach from Achology Ltd, the Academy of Modern Applied Psychology, and a Digital Leader in National Health Services in the U.K.