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The Significance of Emotional Intelligence for a Successful Leader

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Emotional intelligence or EI is a foundational cornerstone of making a great leader. Emotional intelligence is defined as “the sensitivity and ability to monitor and revise one behavior based on the needs and responses of others”. Emotional intelligence is mainly divided into four clusters of Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship management”. In layman terms, EI can be seen as “people skill” or “inter-personal Skills”. After reading the chapter 2 in Essentials of Strategic Planning I gathered that EI, when pertaining to leadership, has more to do with the balance between being a transactional leader and a transformational leader. The text even provided a chart to compare and contrast the model elements of both leadership styles. Neither style is wrong or right, to me, EI is knowing when each style should be used. “The real question in the future may not be which style of leadership is needed but rather at what time each style is most useful”. In researching this topic, I also took my own EIT (emotional intelligence test) offered for free by the Global Leadership Foundation, and I found my results to be quite compelling.

In my personal opinion, people with high EI make great leaders mainly because of their ability to put themselves in other people shoes. Unlike regular intelligence testing, like an IQ (Intelligence quotient) test, an EIQ (emotional intelligence quotient) test how well we deal with our own emotions, and how well we deal with other emotional individuals. Apart from being very empathetical, highly emotionally intelligent leaders seem to face walking a very fine line of gauging other people emotional state against that leader own personal emotions. You can have a high IQ score and still not become as successful as others in life due to low EI. It is very hard to lead if the organization as a whole is not privy to the leader’s vision. There must be a symbiotic relationship between leaders and followers in order for both sides to relate and understand each other. It goes both ways in that the leader must be able to relate to the follower and the follower must also be able to see at least part of the leader’s vision. In my opinion, empathy is a very under-valued character trait of people in leadership roles. When most people think of values that leaders should have usually empathy or sympathy is at the bottom of the totem pole. When people follow you, nothing puts them more at ease than knowing the people in charge understand their struggles, trial, and tribulations.

Also, in my opinion, empathy is where the basis of loyalty starts. Even if the said leader has never done the job of the subordinate, the leader should be able to display some sign of “I’m in the fight with you” attitude. When people must follow a leader, things generally run more smoothly when the subordinate can relate to the person their following. Empathy and compassion for others is the basis on which our country was founded on. It is this understanding which empowers us to vote for the most relatable candidates to lead us in politics. In contrast, EI is not just about having empathy but also about knowing your own emotional limitations. The most vivid example of leaders not portraying good examples of EI is when sports coaches go off on referee’s and umpires. It makes me wonder if low self-awareness is quality sought after when considering hiring a baseball head coach. To me, social awareness is the difference in being someone who leads by fear and someone who leads by inspiration. Being an inspirational leader is like the difference between being on the team, and being the MVP of a team. It is a very hard task to inspire others, but that same task is almost impossible when the same leader lacks self-awareness. How can one expect to wield control over others when they cannot control themselves?

My Uncle taught me that a man who doesn’t take responsibility and control of his own actions is not a man. I would go so far as to say a leader who can’t control their own emotions, is not a good leader. Over my career I have dealt with many people and leaders with low EI but have also come across individuals who I greatly admire specifically for their EI. In the case of having a manager with low EI Rick was an Administrator of mine that stands out. While working for Rick I distinctly remember a high-rates of turnover, back stabbing, and overall deficiencies in the work place. With this same administrator I also recall having low rates in employee attendance, morale, and ultimately low customer satisfaction. Rick leadership was based on fear loathing rather than respect and inspiration. He had made comments at the company Christmas party that were derogatory towards homosexual that directly resulted in at least seven staff members quitting before Christmas, which caused a scheduling nightmare for everyone’s holidays. In contrast to Rick I can recall the exact opposite of a nurse and mentor of mine. Riza was my first boss out of nursing school she taught me everything important I needed to know about nursing in long term care facilities. She inspired a lot of people in that small organization and gave me my first management role.

Riza was from the Philippines but was still able to connect with people from all backgrounds by relating to people through family. She taught me that nothing is more important than family, especially not any job or career. If I told her I had a family emergency she would ask me why are we still conversating, run and take care of them. Riza was thee first and best DON (director of nursing) I’ve ever worked for. For four years she was my mentor in becoming a great skilled medical surgical nurse. She gave me my first opportunity in becoming wound care certified and right before she left the organization she promoted me to skin care coordinator. Riza left the organization because she clashed with the new administrator hired by the corporation. That administrator was Rick. Riza would move on to direct another nursing home I would follow her 5 months later and would ultimately work for her another year before we both would move on in our careers.

Over my own career I have also taken on many leadership roles, and I would consider myself to have high EI. In finding out about my own EI, I took a free EIQ test given by the Global Leadership Foundation. The final scores were tallied in all four categories giving me the following scores: self-awareness (6/10), self-management (8/10), social-awareness (9/10), relationship management (7/10).

My over-all EI score would put me somewhere in the 75th percentile of gauging my own and others emotions. I completely and utterly agree with this assessment of my EI. I have to admit that before taking the test I guessed that I would range from 70% – 80% given that I knew that my greatest weakness was controlling my own emotions. I will discuss my highest and lowest categories as they clearly contrast each other in score. When it comes to my own self-awareness concerning my emotions it is very difficult for me to not become emotional about things that I’m passionate about. “Interpersonal competency is based on self-awareness and understanding, and the best managers are those who can articulate both their strengths and weakness”.

Despite having self-awareness as my weakest score, it is still not very often that I let my emotions cloud my judgment when it comes to working. Even though I may not be as keen in recognizing my own emotion, according to the test results, once I recognize that I’m emotionally compromised I tend to manage my emotions well. The key for me is knowing when I become emotionally compromised about any given subject and removing myself from the situation until I have better control over my emotions. When concerning EI, self-awareness is less about the presence of or acting upon your own emotions and more about you being aware of your emotions that are present. In particular, self-awareness seems more about knowing when your emotions are present and dealing with them in a way that doesn’t hinder others. In contrast to my self-awareness, my social-awareness seems to be my strength concerning EI. I agree with this assessment whole hardily, even to the point where it can be detrimental in an organizational environment. Not to toot my own horn, but I am very empathetical and sympathetic person. I have been known to even take on fights that were not originally my own, purely on an empathetical basis. This is a good position to take when you are charged with being an advocate for someone else, however, it is not a good position to have when you are standing in for someone who is capable and willing to speak and fight for themselves.

In my opinion social awareness has more to do with being inspirational. There is a balance that must be created in order to inspire others. When I take the lead, I try and set a precedent for all others to follow. I believe, to be the leader of anything, your example has to be the north star that guides everyone else to the promise land. Similarly, self-awareness and social-awareness are both about being able to know when things are so emotional that you need to walk away. Everyone has an emotional side, it’s what makes us human. EI is the glue that keeps people together to achieve the same goal. One very important key to having good emotional intelligence is knowing when to walk away from a subject, person, project, or in some cases even customers. Controlling your own emotions is a tough task, even tougher is assessing and gauging others emotions. The fact that my own personal EI score was exactly where I thought it would be, helps me to understand myself. My scores also give me a reference point on where to start when improving myself and my own emotional intelligence.

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