Written by Jennie Yelvington, MSW, ACSW, Program Manager, MSU HR Organization & Professional Development
Emotions tend to run high during times of change, and to navigate effectively for themselves and others, leaders need emotional intelligence (EQ). At its essence, EQ is the ability to regulate oneself and effectively interact with others. To help leaders assess all essential EQ traits, Harvard researcher Daniel Goleman shares that EQ is comprised of these four key components (Goleman, 2020):
- Self-Awareness: To understand your moods, emotions and drives, as well as personal strengths and limitations
- Self-Management: To demonstrate emotional self-control, adaptability, striving for excellence, an appreciation of feedback and a positive outlook.
- Social Awareness: To have the capacity and demonstrate an ability for empathy and to read the dynamics of a group or organization.
- Relationship Management: To deal effectively with conflict, facilitate teamwork, and demonstrate the capacity to influence, mentor and inspire others.
While these skills can be more natural for some leaders than others, all can be learned and are critical as we lead the way through changing times. The article Using Emotional Intelligence to Lead in Higher Education notes, “when leaders apply the principles of Emotional Intelligence in their daily leadership practices, a myriad of congruent studies on working environments and job satisfaction revealed that self-efficacy is heightened. Essentially, not only do people feel more valued, they feel a heightened sense of empowerment and confidence in their ability to accomplish tasks and achieve goals” (Vinciguerra, 2017). All of this is particularly critical when leading through change, when people tend to be stressed and fearful. Conversely, leaders who are lacking in these skills tend to struggle with behavioral problems within the team and a lack of progress in the change effort.
It should also be noted that while essential, EQ skills are not all that is required for leaders to advance a changing organization. Dwindling budgets have to be managed, data must be analyzed and critical decisions must be made. This is not an either/or proposition. Leaders must balance the analytic responsibilities of their position within a socio-emotional context. This requires a conscious effort as each is processed through different neural networks in the brain, and we tend to get stuck in one or the other. The article The Best Managers Balance Analytical and Emotional Intelligence by Melvin Smith describes these two neural networks as the analytic network and the empathetic network (Smith, 2020). Smith also provides the following strategies for increasing your capacity to attend to both:
- Be aware of your “go-to” neural network. This requires mindfulness. Questions for reflection include:
- How am I processing the situation at this moment? Am I thinking about concrete facts? Creative possibilities?
- What types of situations tend to pull me to the analytic network and when am I most likely to be pulled to the empathetic network?
- On the whole, which do I tend to go to more naturally?
- Exercise the neural network that isn’t your “go-to.”
- To exercise your empathetic network: practice having conversations where your goal is to fully understand the other person, as opposed to solving their problem or changing their mind. Really tune into that person, noting their body language, tone of voice, etc. Practice challenging your own assumptions and considering other possibilities.
- To exercise your analytic network: Set a timeline for a task you need to complete and hold yourself to it. Identify a situation at work that needs a creative outcome. Do research, list pros and cons of options, look at risks and benefits and compile information to develop a framework.
- Practice balancing both.
- Be clear on your intention to consider both.
- Think about the implications of your decisions from both a relational and technical perspective.
The need for this balance and the importance of EQ in leadership has only magnified through the current pandemic. Continually changing data points, additional task force work, change fatigue and more have made the job of leaders more difficult, in addition to dealing with the fears, stressors and work changes for their teams. In exploring how EQ can be most helpful in this environment, the article Emotional intelligence during the pandemic: 5 tips for leaders encourages leaders to focus on creating psychological safety, welcoming respectful dissent while not tolerating personal attacks, modeling empathy, and inviting challenges to the status quo (Clark, 2020). Frequent communication continues to be essential as well, both to communicate potential changes and to check in with others to see how they are doing. By strengthening connections with peers and employees and actively working to create a positive environment, we will weather the storm and be positioned for a successful future.
The following resources in elevateU provide additional learning opportunities:
Clark, T. (2020,April 29) Emotional intelligence during the pandemic: 5 tips for leaders. Retrieved November 10, 2020 from https://enterprisersproject.com/article/2020/4/emotional-intelligence-crisis
Goleman, D. (2020, June 9) Harvard researcher says the most emotionally intelligent people have these 12 traits. Which do you have? Retrieved November 10, 2020 from https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/09/harvard-psychology-researcher-biggest-traits-of-emotional-intelligence-do-you-have-them.html
Smith, M., Van Oosten, E., Boyatzis, R. (2020, June 12) The Best Managers Balance Analytical and Emotional Intelligence. Retrieved November 10, 2020 from https://hbr.org/2020/06/the-best-managers-balance-analytical-and-emotional-intelligence
Vinciguerra, S. (2020, October 20) Using Emotional Intelligence to Lead in Higher Education. Retrieved November 10, 2020 from https://sunysail.org/2017/10/20/using-emotional-intelligence-to-lead-in-higher-education/