Emotional Intelligence: How Leaders Can Use it to Their Advantage Linda Allen-Hardisty, M.Ed., B.Ed., PCC, Queen’s IRC Facilitator, 2018
Ever catch yourself thinking, “Why did I just say that?” or “I didn’t handle that discussion as well as I could have.”
We are all human and can make poor decisions in the heat of the moment. Afterwards, we are often left wondering how managing our emotions could have made a difference in the situation. But for leaders, reacting emotionally can have a negative impact that ripples through the organization. We can all become more effective by understanding emotional intelligence and learning how to strengthen our own emotional intelligence. This skill is particularly important for those in managerial and leadership roles.
What is Emotional Intelligence? Emotional intelligence is also referred to as EI or emotional quotient (EQ). EI is a set of emotional and social skills that collectively establish how well we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful ways. (2012, Multi-Health Systems Inc.) EI is not the same as IQ, cognitive ability, aptitude, or personality.
More and more we are witnessing how emotional intelligence truly defines successful leaders, rather than their technical skills or IQ. Think about how often leaders need to use their EI at the organizational, team, and individual level. Consider these examples:
- Leaders of international brands who make public apologies for mistakes and how they got right out in front of the issue to admit their shortcomings;
- Boards of Directors and teams who have had to lead their groups through challenging situations where the ambiguity and tension runs high;
- Managers and leaders who have what it really takes to listen to someone, while managing their impulse control so that trust can be built.
In such situations, it is the emotional strength of leaders that can make - or break - the difference. The good news is that EI can be developed. Leaders can change their emotional intelligence to become more effective personally, professionally and socially.
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Managing Emotional Reactions to Organizational Change Kate Sikerbol, Queen’s IRC Facilitator, 2015
Can you recall a time when you experienced a major change in your organization? Perhaps like others around you, you experienced a roller coaster of emotions: excitement that at long last something was going to happen to change the status quo, confusion about the specifics of the intended changes, and anxiety about what it could mean for you, your team, and even your family. Change can be disruptive, both professionally and personally. Change can affect the nature of our work, where we work, when we work, how we make decisions, and how we communicate. Change can impact our identity, our sense of belonging, and our relationships with coworkers, clients, and customers.
Emotional reactions to change are a normal reaction to the real and perceived disruption that accompanies organizational change. Successful change leaders know that understanding and addressing the mixed emotions that employees may experience can help employees feel motivated and committed to achieving their goals, implementing change, and realizing a new vision for the organization.
Emotions are psychological and biological responses that affect our minds, our bodies, and our motivation. Emotions colour our perception of events and influence how we make sense of the world around us. Emotions are useful. They help us evaluate the significance of events and assess the consequences. If people assess the consequences as beneficial, positive emotions result. If the consequences are perceived as potentially harmful, negative emotions may result. Barbara Fredrickson’s research on emotions helps us understand and appreciate the role of emotions. Negative emotions such as fear and anger narrow our focus, and limit how well we are able to be creative, interact with others, deal with complexity, and take risks. Positive emotions broaden our focus and enable us to interact with others, experiment with new things, and be creative.
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