When employers promote or hire someone for a leadership role, they usually look for someone who is knowledgeable, who can solve problems and aggressively implement solutions, and who has a vision for their work. These are all good indicators of leadership potential, but there is another essential quality that is often overlooked when considering hires or promotions to management type roles—a quality that frequently distinguishes a successful leader from an unsuccessful one: the candidate’s emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence consists of such “soft skills” as self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. While not having these traits does not automatically doom a person to failure as a leader, having them greatly increases the chances of that leader succeeding. Daniel Goleman, in his book Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ, writes that, “Emotional self-control—delaying gratification and stifling impulsiveness—underlies accomplishment of every sort.” If you envision yourself taking on a leadership position at work someday (or if you want to be a better leader today), consider which of these areas you could work on, and make a conscious effort to improve.
The Power of Self-Awareness
A self-aware person knows both their strengths and weaknesses. They recognize what is driving their emotions and actions, and recognize the impact of their words and actions on others. Being self-aware makes a person more realistically confident, without becoming overbearing and arrogant. In fact, it also makes them more likely to actually listen to and hear what others are saying.
Self-Regulation Builds Success
Can you stay focused? This focus means suspending judgment until you know all the facts. Rushing into decisions commonly leads to mistakes—which makes sense, when you consider how hard it is to make a good choice without full knowledge of a situation. Having this kind of focus on the present, on the facts, and not reacting too quickly, can make you a much better leader–one who is openhearted, and responsive to the need for change.
Pride in Your Work
Taking pride in good work means having a passion for what you do, that goes beyond money and prestige. Having passion drives people to pursue, and achieve, goals, even in the face of tremendous obstacles. Also, if you are working toward ever-higher personal goals, pride in everyday accomplishments can arm you against downturns at your company or organization, allowing you to remain positive and stay committed to the task at hand. You may not know what’s going to happen next month, or next year, at work, but at least you can know for sure that you have done your part, as well as you knew how.
The Value of Empathy and Social Skills
Understanding what others are feeling, and taking those feelings into account, can make the difference between loyalty and chaos in the workplace. Empathetic leaders, by relating to the people who work for them on a human level, are able to retain talented employees, better deal with customers and employees with problems, and stay sensitive to the needs of those around them, thereby reducing tension and promoting harmony.
Having social skills allow you to create relationships and business networks, by finding common ground, and building a rapport with colleagues. Socially intelligent leaders can build teams that get results.
While no one trait—whether it be intelligence, knowledge, analytical skills, or emotional intelligence—alone determines whether a person will be a successful leader, emotional intelligence plays a big role in such outcomes. Developing your own EQ antennae can propel you toward reaching your leadership potential.