“True intelligence is emotional intelligence.” ― Wald Wassermann
While emotional intelligence has been, for some time now, recognised as a key leadership competency, in the current COVID-19 crisis, this skill has become more critical than ever.
Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to identify, understand and manage your emotions and those of others. Being aware of your own emotions and being able to more appropriately regulate and manage them is critical in order for you to better manage and understand how others are feeling and in turn make better, more balanced decisions for you and your team.
As emotional beings, it is our emotions that often (even if we are not consciously aware of it) drive our actions and how we behave. For leaders, who are there to lead, to inspire and to motivate, to set a clear example and direction, to create a safe, supportive environment within which people can flourish and be productive, being ‘emotionally smart’ is critical.
Indeed, so important is the need for leaders to demonstrate emotional intelligence, that the World Economic Forum (in their ‘Future of Jobs Report’) projected emotional intelligence to trend by 2022 as one of the top 10 job skills required for workers to thrive http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Jobs_of_Tomorrow_2020.pdf).
So just what competencies should emotionally intelligent leaders be displaying so that they are better able to support and steer their teams through these troubled times?
- Managing your own emotions
Unless you are aware, and conscious, of your own emotions and how they may impact upon your own mindset, how you relate to others and behave, you are not likely to be able to better regulate and manage them and, as a result, ensure that you behave and act in an appropriate manner; certainly one that engenders calm and trust.
While stress is a normal part of life, in the current climate, our stress levels have been elevated exponentially. To better manage your own, and therefore your team’s, feelings of stress and anxiety, starts with an awareness of your own emotional state.
It isn’t stress that makes us fall–it’s how we respond to stressful events. – Wayde Goodall
- Displaying empathy
Empathy is a critical skill for any emotionally intelligent leader. Being able to ‘step into the shoes of another’, to see the situation from their perspective is critical in order for you to better understand and therefore deal with the impact the current crisis is having on your team’s morale and productivity.
Showing empathy and compassion for how, for example, your team may be struggling to adapt to working remotely, managing work and the now, 24/7, pressures of family, their anxieties as regards their future employment, is vitally important to help calm and manage your team’s anxieties and support them adjust to the ‘new normal’.
Engaging with, and acknowledging, how your team is feeling, will engender a sense of unity within the team, helping them gain perspective and realise that they are not alone in terms of how they are feeling. This in turn will help create a more focused and motivated workforce.
When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion. – Dale Carnegie
- Showing (authentic) gratitude
As a leader, you need to be inspiring and motivating your team. This becomes even more important at this time, when people are having to work remotely, are not able to get the immediate, direct feedback and assurances they would in a ‘normal’ work setting.
Showing your appreciation for what your team are doing, how they are managing despite the difficult circumstances, expressing your gratitude for the work they are doing, and being realistic as regards expectations and what can be done is critical for fostering a motivated, productive team.
- Being transparent
During crises, it become vitally important to keep your workforce well-informed and to communicate regularly with them.
There is of course a fine line here – however, by not communicating or not communicating regularly, you risk your team relying on hearsay, on their own faulty assumptions and on inaccurate, misleading social media reports – which will only increase their levels of anxiety and reduce their ability to remain motivated and productive.
By being open, honest, transparent about the situation, what you know and do not know, will help build trust and quell unrealistic concerns.
And when communicating, try at all times to do so via video – and in this way to avoid misunderstandings (and hence unrealistic anxieties) that may arise through the use of email and tweets
“Emotional intelligence is a way of recognizing, understanding, and choosing how we think, feel, and act. It shapes our interactions with others and our understanding of ourselves. It defines how and what we learn; it allows us to set priorities; it determines the majority of our daily actions. Research suggests it is responsible for as much as 80 percent of the “success” in our lives”. -J. Freedman