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Being a Better Leader Starts With Becoming More Emotionally Intelligent. Here’s How to Do It.

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Today’s leaders need more than technical expertise and strategic know-how to thrive. As a global CEO and military retiree, I can speak directly on this topic. Today’s leaders more than ever need emotional intelligence; the secret sauce that sets exceptional leaders apart from the rest.

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is the ability to understand and manage emotions in yourself and others. It’s like having a secret weapon that allows leaders to connect, inspire and navigate their work and professional relationships. Let’s explore the importance of emotional intelligence as a leader and share five ways to boost your EQ game.

Leaders do more than make tough decisions and rally the troops; they must understand the business’s human side. Emotionally intelligent leaders build strong relationships, inspire loyalty and create a positive work culture. It enables leaders to empathize with their team members, understand their motivations and concerns and adapt accordingly.

A leader with high EQ can effectively manage conflicts, navigate challenging conversations and inspire others to reach their full potential. In a nutshell, emotional intelligence is the secret ingredient that transforms good leaders into great ones. Let me share some ways to increase your EQ from my seat as a CEO.

Related: 4 Ways Emotional Intelligence Makes You a Better Entrepreneur

Mastering empathy

Empathy is the key component of emotional intelligence, and it’s such an underrated skill to have. Developing empathy involves putting yourself in another person’s position and comprehending their feelings and point of view. You can enhance your empathy by paying close attention when someone speaks, inquiring open-ended questions and demonstrating a sincere curiosity in wanting to know their experiences. It’s important to remember that even minor efforts can yield significant results, like establishing trust and cultivating meaningful connections.

Mastering self-awareness and self-regulation

Self-awareness is vital to being emotionally intelligent. Take a second to decipher what is going on in your head. Are you stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious? By acknowledging your emotions, you can work to manage them and make conscious decisions rather than indulge in your knee-jerk reaction. Working on this will make sure you seem calm under stressful situations and your team will have more confidence in you as a leader. So, become an emotional Sherlock Holmes and master the art of self-reflection.

Mastering social skills

Connect with your employees human to human. To be a true people person, you need to be a great listener as well as a great speaker. Showing you care about what your employees have going on in their lives is one way to connect with them. Offering support is another great way to help create a human connection, and don’t underestimate the power of humor.

Humor is a powerful tool in the emotional intelligence arsenal. It can diffuse tension, build rapport and create a positive work environment. Making a witty joke or sharing a warm remark can help break the ice, boost morale and build stronger connections with others. Sprinkle some laughter into your interactions but make sure you use humor with respect and that you are sensitive toward others’ feelings. Bring out a few harmless dad jokes and see how your employees react to them.

Related: These Are the 4 Emotional Intelligence Characteristics All Business Leaders Need

Mastering relationships

Pay attention to your nonverbal cues. How you sit, your facial expressions and any eye contact you make (or don’t make) send a message to others around us. Master your own nonverbal cues and body language and pay attention to your employees as well. This will help strengthen your relationships because you will be more aware of how someone is feeling.

The way you provide constructive feedback is an art form that requires care and an understanding of how that information may be received. Practice giving feedback with empathy and tact. Focus on specific behaviors and their impact rather than criticizing individuals. Use the “sandwich” technique — start with positive feedback, provide areas for improvement and end with encouragement. By mastering the art of feedback, you’ll create a culture of continuous growth and development in the workplace.

Mastering motivation

A part of EQ is knowing what makes your employees work hard and reach their goals. Knowing how they want to be incentivized is important because all employees don’t want the same type of motivation. For example, some may be motivated by money and others may be motivated by titles. Cultivate a growth mindset and embrace failure as a learning opportunity in your organization.

You don’t need to do it all alone either. Sometimes we need motivation from others so we can forward it to the people in our lives. Build a support network of mentors and peers who can guide and encourage you during challenging moments. Remember, being able to motivate your employees is one of the most important characteristics that help leaders weather storms and inspire their teams to do the same.

Using emotional intelligence for good

Leadership can be a bumpy ride, filled with challenges and setbacks. It’s easy to see how mastering emotional intelligence can be used for manipulation purposes. It’s important to use these skills for the greater good and not to push your own agenda. Always lead with strong morals and values and your employees will follow your lead.

As leaders, it’s time to recognize the power of emotional intelligence and harness its potential. Understanding and managing our emotions and cultivating empathy, humor and resilience can elevate our leadership game. Emotional intelligence allows us to connect with others on a deeper level, inspire loyalty and create a positive work culture where everyone can thrive.

Related: If You Have No Emotional Awareness as a Leader, You’re Limiting Your Success. Here’s Why (and How to Fix It).

Embrace your EQ, lead with heart and wit and watch your leadership journey take off to new horizons. After all, a leader armed with emotional intelligence is unstoppable in the ever-evolving world of business. I have led thousands of people over my lifetime, and I learned these lessons by failing forward and learning from those experiences. I hope these tips are useful to you in your leadership journey.

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