Successful leaders tend to demonstrate a high degree of Emotional Intelligence (EI). For those of you who don’t know what EI is, it is the ability to manage ourselves and our relationships and it is recognised as fundamental factor in successful leadership.

As Joseph C Rost wrote in “Leadership for the Twenty First Century”: “Leadership is an influence relationship amongst leaders and followers who intend real change that reflect their shared purposes”. In order to influence people around you, people have to develop a strong level in trust in you. To develop that trust, you have to demonstrate a wide range of personal qualities such as:

  • Consistency
  • Transparency
  • Decisiveness
  • Fairness

Qualities such as these are a result of high degrees of Emotional Intelligence.


What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence, as described by Daniel Goleman in his book “The New Leaders”, falls into four categories: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness and Social Skills.

Let’s take the first two categories. Self-Awareness is the ability to understand one’s own emotions and how they impact on others. It is depends on a person understanding their own emotions, strengths and weaknesses, values and beliefs and their own sense of self-worth. Self-Management is the ability to control your own emotions and to behave in a consistent manner that is line with your own values.

The path to improving your own emotional intelligence starts with developing your self-awareness and managing yourself better. How do you do that? How do you develop your own sense of worth? How do you know whether you have behaved consistently?


Developing your EI through reflection

Well, one way is to spend a little time reflecting.

I will give you an example: Imagine that there has been a disagreement at work. A project you wanted to start has been delayed and it looks like it might be over-looked entirely. You become angry and find yourself tuning out of the discussion.

Once the anger has died down, spend a little time replaying the incident to help you learn. Ask yourself:

  • Why did you become angry? Why is it important to you that your project starts on time?
  • What impression will the other person have of you at the end of the meeting? Is this the impression that you want to leave? Is it the sort of impression that will help you turn decisions such as these around in the future?
  • Check against your values and beliefs and work out whether any of those are the cause of your anger.
  • Consider the discussion from the other person’s point of view. What factors have made them delay your project? What information has he/she got that has led them to that decision?
  • What could you do in the future to control your anger and ensure that you get your point across more effectively?


Not just navel-gazing

Of course, reflection only works so far. You need to balance your own views against those of others. So, once you have undertaken some reflection, find someone whose opinion you trust and discuss your thoughts and ask for their feedback. In the example above, you might even talk to the person you had the disagreement with in order to learn more and to understand how you can influence his/her decision-making in the future.

Reflection plus feedback are very powerful tools in your own self-development. So take the time out of your busy life to slow down and reflect on what has happened so that you can learn more about yourself. If you are waiting to meet someone and you are early, don’t die for your phone … reflect. If you are having lunch alone, don’t check e-mails … reflect.


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