People Need Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

As I’m writing this post, I know many of us have been dealing with negative emotions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The uncertainty and unknown leave many of us with a sad spirit. Specifically, as we’re nearing the end of August, many of you are making big decisions about school for your children. These aren’t easy decisions – and they come with big emotions that may keep you awake at night. I want to share some insight into how we can all become more self-aware and increase our emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is defined as “the capacity to be aware of, control and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” A lot of the conversation around emotional intelligence relates to our understanding of other people’s behavior and ourselves and the impact of our behavior on the people around us.

It’s closely related to emotional wellbeing – that is, our ability to manage our anxiety, stress, anger, and other negative emotions, so that they don’t ultimately get out of control and have a negative impact on our lives. If you’re emotionally intelligent, chances are you acknowledge that there are certain things you need to maintain your emotional wellbeing – and you make time to ensure you do or get those things. That doesn’t mean you do it all flawlessly, especially during a crisis, but it means you’re aware of your emotional wellbeing and making an effort to do what you can to control it.

That’s the first part of emotional intelligence. The second part is how we relate to others.

Have you heard the phrase “read the room”? I’ve seen it used to criticize leaders who make comments that don’t match or resonate with their audience. Your ability to “read the room” means you’re conscious of how others are feeling and act appropriately. For example, if I’m in a room full of employees at Loretto – many of whom are single moms – and I say I need their full attention on work right now because our organization is suffering financially, etc., that would be an emotionally stupid thing for me to do. Their minds may be on how they’re going to keep coming to work and earning any income because they lost their childcare, or because school has stopped in-person and shifted to virtual learning as a result of the current COVID-19 crisis.

I think it’s important to note emotional intelligence isn’t all or nothing. I think there are people who have emotional intelligence in dealing with others in how they manage others’ feelings and perceptions but don’t do as good of a job with themselves. If you had to rate yourself in both of these parts of emotional intelligence – which one is your strength? And your weakness?

As leaders, this topic is crucial, especially during a crisis. If you’re a leader who is lacking in emotional intelligence, your emotions may have you snapping at members of your team, or lashing out in other ways on a regular basis. You may struggle to bring you’re A-game to work because you haven’t slept in weeks due to anxiety. It’s easy to see how this can negatively impact a team. On the other hand, you may have your emotional wellbeing in check, but fail to show empathy to those on your team. For example, members of your team may be wrestling with their emotional wellbeing – are you adding to the negative emotions? Or have you made it clear that we’re all feeling a little uneasy and will try to do what you can, within reason, to help provide some relief? Many parents find themselves working remotely and providing their childcare – what are you doing to help them?

In conclusion, I’d love for you to listen to a few of my thoughts on emotional intelligence I recently shared with Ana Gil on “Officially-Unofficial.”