The Importance Of Emotional Intelligence In Leadership, By ChiNna Okoroafor
Research evidence suggests that intelligence alone will not explain our achievements at work or in life and that emotion plays a key role in relationships and organizational success. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, assess, express and manage one’s own emotions; the ability to understand the emotions of others and to regulate them and promote intellectual growth.
Emotional Intelligence, also known as emotional quotient or EQ is widely known to be a key trait for effective leadership. It generally includes the following skills: Self-awareness, which is one’s ability to understand one’s own emotions. Individuals who experience honest self-awareness are able to recognize their strengths, weaknesses, needs, and drives. They know how their feelings affect themselves, other people, and their job performance. Self-control, or the ability to keep disruptive emotions and impulses in check, to maintain effectiveness under stressful or even hostile conditions. This does not mean suppressing your emotions. It means managing disruptive impulses and destabilizing emotions in order to allow the positive emotions thrive. The ability to harness those emotions and apply them to important tasks such as critical thinking and problem solving.
While both male and female genders are emotionally intelligent, recent studies have shown that females demonstrate a higher degree of emotional intelligence than males based on common ability tests such as the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional
Intelligence Test (MSCEIT). Females also score higher than males in emotional self-awareness, interpersonal relationship, self-regard, and empathy. Perhaps, this is the reason Nigeria needs more female leaders.
Nigeria is one of the many highly patriarchal societies where masculinity is associated with leadership, assertiveness and dominance. Hence, the patriarchy system has made people think in male terms when they envision a leader. For example, they think of competitiveness, decisiveness, controlling, dominating, and intimidating. We rarely hear leadership characteristics like empathy, relationship-oriented, strong communicator, collaborative or supportive which are attributes associated with women. The reason for this is that patriarchy has always had deep-rooted fears and anxieties when it comes to women’s innate capacity for organization and leadership. So, patriarchy is not necessarily afraid of highly educated or wealthy women; The fear is the inbred emotional intelligence women carry. Perhaps this is why some Nigerian leaders resist putting powerful women who are endowed with positive self-esteem and are emotionally intelligent in government or cabinet positions.
But there is good news. While emotional intelligence is an inborn trait, it can be changed because it is about behaviors. It is an attribute one can learn and/or strengthen if it is weak. A person can learn to be emotionally independent and gain the qualities that allow them to have emotional intelligence by connecting to core emotions, accepting them, and being aware of how they affect a person’s decisions and actions.
The importance of emotional intelligence cannot be overemphasised. It is a vital tool in teams coaching, stress management, feedback delivery, and collaborative tasks. It is the secret to leadership in times of crisis. Hence, a leader lacking in emotional intelligence is often unable to effectively gauge the needs, wants and expectations of those they lead. It is important that good leaders are self-aware and understand how their verbal and non-verbal communication affect their team.
As earlier stated, emotional intelligence is an enduring process as people go through life experiences. Therefore, raising one’s emotional intelligence is an individual responsibility. Studies have shown that the level of emotional intelligence continues to improve as people become adept at handling their emotions and impulses, at motivating themselves, and at developing their empathy and social adroitness. Since emotional intelligence is a highly sought after set of core skills, especially in professional capacities and in personal relationships, it is a must have.
Considerable research on emotional intelligence has focused on leadership. A June 2019 Ohio State University leadership study emphasizes that the leaders who are able to establish mutual trust, respect and rapport with group members are more effective in managing conflicts, influencing other and growing organizational teams. The effectiveness of a leader depends upon his or her ability to solve problems that can arise in a group or organization. Skills such as flexibility, conflict management, coercion and social reasoning, are very important in advancing levels in leadership hierarchy. Additionally, proficiencies such as
inspiration and/or motivation, integrity, interpersonal sensitivity, conscientiousness and intuitiveness are undoubtedly relevant for a director’s role in determining the company’s vision, mission and values.
Emotional intelligence is the skill through which one learns to develop empathy in order to better communicate and relate with other people. It enhances the ability to weigh words and mannerisms and to ensure they are the right fit for a situation. Markedly, good leaders should be caring, considerate, empathetic, supportive and must give personalized attention to their individual followers. These character traits may be easier for an individual with high emotional intelligence. Internalizing the importance of emotional intelligence and applying it well yields positive leadership results. Emotional intelligence is a vital tool for leaders to possess in today’s dynamic world.
– Chinna Okoroafor, A Licensed Psychotherapist & Certified Internal Family Systems Therapist, writes from Colorado Springs, CO, U.S.A
Disclaimer: This article is entirely the opinion of the writer and does not represent the views of The Whistler.