3 Traits of an Emotionally Intelligent Leader

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Emotional intelligence is all the rage (in fact, my wife said a recent episode of the Bachelor was based on it – go figure). If you are not talking EQ or EI these days when it comes to leadership – you might as well be clubbing people over the head and dragging them to their departments. 10 years ago, leaders were leaving behind their barbarian leadership methods to begin walking the path of emotional intelligent… and finally, we were seeing the first signs of successful implementation of EQ.

These days, it is hard to find leaders that are NOT leading by EQ example. In fact, most successful organizations have emotionally-intelligent-savvy teammates throughout their team. Anyone that has at least read one book, or watched a YouTube video on emotional intelligence can tell you that effective emotional intelligence in a team must come from all angles.

Job interviews are crammed with gauges of EQ, whether the interviewer knows it or not. A quick Google search will net 427,000+ results of psychometric testing for hiring purposes – likely up a million percent from 10 years ago; (don’t fact check me there).

So why the sudden fascination about emotional quotient? Why is an EQ leader so important? What traits should a true emotionally intelligent leader possess?

I have narrowed it down; every emotionally intelligent leader possesses these 3 traits.

The ability to positively influence when no one is looking (and when they are).

I have been around a lot of bosses in my life, but only a few leaders. 10 years ago, someone would have said, “Bosses, leaders… same thing.” With everyone having some form of emotional intelligence knowledge these days (even if you didn’t have a proper name for it, until today), it would be easy for us all to pinpoint the first leader we were exposed to that made an impact on our careers.

The leaders that made the positive influence in my career, or life for that matter, have been those that took the time to understand and eventually influence those around them when no one else was looking. It is easy to showboat and display your positive influence in team meetings or in a group email – but how many reading this have taken the time to be the same person behind closed doors?

Emotional intelligence has a lot to do with your influence on and off “the field”. I have made plenty of mistakes when no one was looking – but being able to cover them up before they became public is a skill we all strive to master, right? So why be the positive influence when behind closed doors?

Simple. If you truly want to make an impact, you must believe and understand your influence when it is expected and unexpected. If you do not start living the brand when those around you are not glued to your hip, you never will. The image you portray does not build itself only during work hours, it accumulates over time. That time runs from sun-up to sun-down… like it or not.

Stop gossiping and start understanding the issues.

Office politics will never die. The water cooler will be replaced by a soda machine, the soda machine replaced by a tea station and so on. People will talk. Negativity will continue to fester without fully understanding issues and working through them with colleagues & leaders.

The real question, will you be part of it or help to stymy it? This is a tough one.

Part of fitting in at a new place, or moving up sometimes means getting in the middle of a mudslinging fest and not knowing whose side to really take. All of us have been there, right?

“So-and-so is doing what they always do… I’m done here.”

“How can I do my job when they can just run amuck?”

These are the times that a real emotionally intelligent leader shines. We can all talk a big game and say we wouldn’t be a part of it – I have fallen into it a few times myself before. Those special leaders will sit back and digest because what they see are opportunities for growth as a team. To fix the problem, to help be the soundboard – you must first understand the issues at hand. If you dive into the mud pit and start slinging – you are not a leader.

Real EQ Leaders do not preach, they teach.

Two guys walk into a bar, a preacher & a teacher… sounds like a good intro to a joke eh? People who preach EQ are usually too busy preaching, instead of actually doing it. Sad but true. They read one book about emotional intelligence and now they are an expert, or perhaps they sat in on a speaker at the latest conference or watched a 20-minute TED talk about it. Whatever the case, they now want to run around the office and spew buzzwords while speaking out both sides of their mouth (usually they don’t know it).

Leaders that understand what emotional intelligence is about are instead spending their time learning people, learning what makes them tick, learning how to influence those people, empowering those people to influence those around them. It is a meta-game for sure. You can reach far more people by understanding one person fully and allowing them to influence others – than standing at a podium and preaching the gospel of EQ.

“We will be reading today from the first book of Daniel Coleman, Chapter 3. Thou shalt not forsaken those around you by spewing the word.”

Sorry – I had to. The irony here is that a lot of preachers are emotionally intelligent people, their influence is broad – but the difference is their body of knowledge of course. If the leader preaching EQ had spent the time and effort in learning the content that the actual preacher did… they wouldn’t be up there preaching in the first place.

Emotional intelligence is a personal thing. It is taking information from relationships and using it to modify and tailor your approach to those particular individuals. It is starting over with the next person and the next. It is building a network of trust that feeds on itself until an entire infrastructure is created that is self-managing.

It isn’t yelling from a podium until everyone “hears it” and forcing them to understand.

What is the takeaway?

Simple. Do you want to make an impact? Be an emotionally intelligent leader for your company – make some changes. Live it. Take these three traits as a starting point to build around. Are there more? Sure. Are these perfect? Of course, I wrote them. On a serious note, EQ is an amoeba, changing shape and ever-growing as we learn more and modify our approach… it grows and morphs.

If you take these three points/tips and apply them immediately – you will begin to grow as a leader and influence those around you more and more. We are all born with emotional intelligence, it is up to us to harness and develop it.

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