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Emotional intelligence: A game changer skill for leaders

Emotional intelligence is not a "yesterday’s" concept. Despite the first mentions in 1964 and then in 1966 in a paper related to emancipation, it was only in 1990 that two researchers, Peter Salovey and John Mayer, introduced emotional intelligence as a term.


Daniel Goleman shed light into this concept later in 1995 providing a scientific background in the first published book dedicated to this theme.


Since the concept became popular, soon difference definitions started showing up. One of them states: "emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand and manage one's emotions as well as recognize, understand and influence the emotions of those around you."


In the last almost three decades a considerable amount of research has been developed and a lot of information is available, however emotional literacy is yet a challenge.


When it comes to the organizational world, there is still a myth that emotions should be separate from work, especially at a management level. As if showing our emotions would be unprofessional and counterproductive.


Up until recently, even within Generation X, it was common to assume a professional persona. In other words, to wear an invisible cape as a barrier to whatever emotions - of oneself and others - that could emerge in the workplace. A leader would be considered professional when they were able to separate themselves from their emotions to stay factual, focused and efficient. Emotions were there to create confusion.


This myth is being tackled step by step and there are indeed organizations where trainings are being designed to address the impact of emotional self-awareness, namely in leadership positions.


Emotional intelligence is influenced by many factors, one of them being culture. The way we experience and express our emotions within our cultural background.

What I see yet as a challenge for organizations in such a diverse environment - though an opportunity - is managing emotional intelligence in cross cultural interactions.


Often the emotional language spoken brings barriers and reflects itself in misunderstandings and potential conflicts. It becomes even harder when a feedback culture is not promoted.

Leaders have a conscious responsibility to invest in developing their own emotional intelligence while encouraging the same goal to their teams.


Emotionally intelligent leaders are aware of their own emotions and are able to read other people's emotions. They are aware of what is happening inside themselves being more prone to manage their emotions and consequently challenges and potential problems that may arise. This is not only useful when establishing relationships, but also when taking decisions that involve themselves, their teams, and the organization itself.


In a VUCA world where uncertainty and unpredictability are no exception to the rule, emotional intelligence is a must-have skill. Leaders and employees with high emotional intelligence show more adaptability and flexibility, being able to be empathetic, collaborate more effectively and stay calmer under pressure.


What else do we need to invest our time, energy and resources in increasing emotional literacy?



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