Business Leadership Today

Four Simple Steps a Leader Can Take To Improve Emotional Intelligence


Matt Tenney, Author of Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process

Leadership is not just about directing others—it’s about understanding oneself, managing one’s actions, being aware of others’ feelings, and managing relationships effectively. These four pillars form the bedrock of emotional intelligence, a key ingredient in strong leadership.

Wherever you are on your leadership journey, there’s always room for improvement, especially when it comes to emotional intelligence. Developing your emotional intelligence is essential for providing a positive employee experience and achieving sustainable success. 

But the question remains—how can leaders hone these skills and make it a continuous improvement process? The answer lies in four transformative steps.

The four steps a leader can take to improve emotional intelligence are practicing reflection, managing emotions, showing empathy, and communicating effectively. By following these steps, leaders can improve their self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, and relationship management.

This article explores these four key steps and offers tips for developing these skills.

Step 1: Enhancing Self-Awareness Through Reflection

Self-awareness is the cornerstone of effective leadership. It involves understanding one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and values. The key step here is reflection

Regular introspection and reflection can help leaders understand their emotional responses and decision-making processes.

The Impact of Self-Awareness on Leadership

Self-aware leaders are better equipped to make informed decisions, manage stress, and motivate their teams. They understand their emotional triggers and can regulate their reactions, leading to a more balanced and effective leadership style. 

By being aware of their strengths and weaknesses, they can leverage their skills and seek improvement in areas where they lack expertise.

Improving the Employee Experience Through Self-Awareness

A self-aware leader contributes to a positive employee experience. By understanding their own emotions, they can empathize with their team members, fostering a supportive and understanding work environment. 

This can lead to increased job satisfaction, improved performance, and a stronger sense of team cohesion.

Examples of Self-Awareness in the Workplace

A self-aware leader might recognize that they react negatively to stress and take steps to manage this, such as taking a moment to calm down before responding to a stressful situation. 

They might also acknowledge their difficulty in delegating tasks and make a conscious effort to trust their team members with more responsibilities.

Strategies To Enhance Self-Awareness Through Reflection

Here are some actionable tips for enhancing self-awareness.

  • Keep a Journal: Documenting thoughts, emotions, and reactions to different situations can provide valuable insights.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Being present in the moment can help leaders understand their emotions and reactions as they occur.
  • Seek Feedback: Constructive feedback from colleagues and team members can highlight blind spots and provide a different perspective.

Step 2: Improving Self-Management Through Emotional Control

Self-management is a crucial aspect of effective leadership. It involves controlling one’s emotions, particularly in stressful situations. The key step here is emotional control.

The Impact of Self-Management on Leadership

Leaders who excel in self-management are able to maintain composure and make sound decisions, even in high-pressure situations. 

They demonstrate resilience, adaptability, and a positive attitude, which can inspire their teams and foster a productive work environment.

Improving the Employee Experience Through Self-Management

Effective self-management can significantly enhance the employee experience. When leaders manage their emotions well, it creates a more stable and positive work environment. 

Employees feel more comfortable and secure, which can lead to increased engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction.

Examples of Self-Management in the Workplace

An example of self-management in the workplace could be a leader who receives negative feedback. Instead of reacting defensively, they take a moment to process the information, control their emotions, and respond constructively. 

This could involve acknowledging the feedback, thanking the person for their honesty, and discussing ways to improve.

Another example could be a leader dealing with a project setback. Rather than expressing frustration or assigning blame, they remain calm, assess the situation objectively, and guide their team toward a solution.

Strategies To Improve Self-Management Through Emotional Control

Here are some actionable tips for enhancing self-management through emotional control:

  • Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing, can help leaders stay calm and focused, even in stressful situations.
  • Create a Stress Management Plan: Identify your stress triggers and develop a plan to manage them effectively. This could include taking breaks, practicing relaxation techniques, or seeking support when needed.
  • Seek Feedback: Regular feedback can provide valuable insights into how your emotions and actions affect others. Be open to this feedback and use it as an opportunity to improve.

Step 3: Boosting Social Awareness Through Empathy

Social awareness is about understanding and respecting the feelings and perspectives of others. The key step here is empathy.

The Impact of Social Awareness on Leadership

Leaders with high social awareness are able to understand and respond to the needs of their team members, fostering a supportive and inclusive work environment. 

They are better equipped to manage diversity, resolve conflicts, and build strong relationships, which are all crucial for effective leadership.

Improving the Employee Experience Through Social Awareness

When leaders demonstrate social awareness, it can significantly improve the employee experience. 

Employees feel understood and valued, which can lead to increased engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction. It also fosters a culture of respect and inclusivity, where everyone’s perspectives are valued.

Examples of Social Awareness in the Workplace

A leader showing social awareness might notice when a team member is feeling stressed or overwhelmed and offer support or adjustments to their workload. They might also recognize when there are conflicts within the team and take steps to facilitate open and respectful communication.

Another example could be a leader who takes the time to understand the unique experiences and perspectives of their diverse team members. 

This could involve having open conversations about cultural differences, learning about different communication styles, or providing resources for continued learning and understanding.

Boosting Social Awareness Through Empathy

Here are some actionable tips for enhancing social awareness through empathy:

  • Active Listening: Make a conscious effort to listen to others without interrupting. Try to understand their perspective before responding.
  • Open-Mindedness: Be open to different perspectives and experiences. This can help you understand others better and foster a more inclusive environment.
  • Practice Empathy: Regularly put yourself in others’ shoes. Try to understand their feelings and perspectives, and respond with kindness and understanding.

Step 4: Strengthening Relationship Management Through Communication

Relationship management is about building and maintaining healthy relationships with others. The key step here is communication.

The Impact of Relationship Management on Leadership

Effective relationship management can make one a better leader. Leaders who excel in relationship management are able to build strong, positive relationships with their team members, peers, and superiors. 

They are skilled at managing conflicts, fostering collaboration, and creating an environment where everyone feels valued and heard.

Improving the Employee Experience Through Relationship Management

Good relationship management improves the employee experience by creating a positive, supportive work environment. 

When leaders communicate effectively and manage relationships well, they achieve higher levels of trust, increased engagement, and better team performance.

Examples of Relationship Management in the Workplace

An example of relationship management in the workplace could be a leader who regularly checks in with their team members, not just about work-related matters but also about their well-being. 

This shows that the leader cares about their team members as individuals, which can strengthen their relationship.

Another example could be a leader who effectively manages conflicts within the team. Instead of ignoring the conflict or taking sides, they facilitate open communication, encourage empathy, and guide the team toward a resolution.

Strengthening Relationship Management Skills Through Communication

Here are some actionable tips for enhancing relationship management skills through communication:

  • Clarity and Transparency: Be clear and transparent in your communication. Make sure your team members understand their roles, responsibilities, and the expectations you have of them.
  • Active Listening: Show genuine interest in what others are saying. This can make them feel valued and heard, which can strengthen your relationship with them.
  • Regular Feedback: Provide regular, constructive feedback. This can help your team members understand what they’re doing well and where they can improve.

Leaders can elevate their emotional intelligence by embracing these four practices: reflective practice, emotion management, empathetic understanding, and effective communication. By adopting these strategies, leaders can unlock their full potential, fostering a more empathetic and emotionally intelligent leadership style.

Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.

Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.

He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.

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