Emotional intelligence is hugely important in any career, but particularly to those who are people orientated. Naturally, this includes anyone who is in a position of leadership, where having a high level of emotional intelligence is more important than ever. So, what is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is all to do with our ability to understand our own emotions, as well as those of the people around us. It’s a powerful skill to possess and once you do, you will be more influential and successful in your communications at work.

David Goleman, an American psychologist who has helped to bring emotional intelligence to the forefront of career discussion, highlights that there are 5 main elements to emotional intelligence.

All leaders and career-driven individuals should aim to acquire and improve on these elements:

1. Self-awareness

You will not be able to understand the emotions of others if you cannot first comprehend your own. Are you the kind of person who knows what you’re feeling and can see how those feelings may be affecting those around you?

Try to be more aware of what you are feeling, especially when your emotions are running high. This is when your emotions are most likely to rule your actions and to have the most impact on those around you. It’s important to recognise these states of heightened emotion and to be able to pause and think carefully about how you really want to react. Your reaction is always down to you, the best leaders are in control of their actions and can therefore make a measured decision.

2. Self-regulation

Self-regulation ties in very closely with your self-awareness. It is all about keeping emotional control. When you’re feeling angry you may naturally want to shout or verbally attack the person responsible. This would be an emotionally charged reaction and probably not the best thing to do. You’ll rarely hear a good leader do this.

When it comes to improving your self-regulation, being able to remain calm is key. You never want to lose your temper. If this is something that you know you struggle with, try to find some calming techniques that will help to calm you down. When mistakes have been made, you also don’t want to be trying to pin the blame on others. Always focus on moving forward as opposed to the negatives.

3. Motivation

Motivation is key when it comes to achieving our goals. Leaders and managers should be able to help boost motivation in their teams, but no matter what level you are at, self-motivation is a crucial skill to have.

In order to keep your motivation up, you need to have clear goals in mind. These can be short term and long term, personal and professional goals. What are you working for? With these goals in mind, you can begin each day with positivity and focus.

4. Empathy

Empathy is an important skill when it comes to working with and leading others. It’s all about being able to understand them, their point of view and what they might be feeling. Do you find it easy to put yourself in others’ shoes? Or is this something you need to work on?

To discover how other people are feeling you should read their body language and listen carefully. Once you have a better understanding of how a person is feeling, you can adjust the way you work with them and respond appropriately. You will also earn respect and loyalty from your colleagues.

5. Social Skills

Social skills are something that you should always be developing. They help you to work well with others and to get your team’s support. They also help when it comes to resolving conflict and this is something that is really important if you’re in a position of leadership. Identify what your weaknesses are when it comes to social skills and find out some ways that you can improve.

Emotional intelligence has always been important in the workplace, but recently there is a lot more emphasis placed on it. Employers want their employees to be emotionally intelligent and some are even testing candidates on it as part of their recruitment process.

Arguably, in people-orientated roles, emotional intelligence is much more important than general intelligence. Improving yours could have a significant impact on your career success.

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