The importance of Emotional Intelligence in effective leadership

Last Thursday a couple of our consultants attended Project Management Institute’s annual Synergy conference themed around the concept of being Agile, leadership qualities and how important understanding people is to project management. Our favourite talks included one by Steven Carver, where using the case study of the Grenfell Tower, he covered the issue of compliance and when sometimes it is ok to break the rules.  Lysa Morrison also spoke of emotional intelligence and how important it is to know oneself, understand others and thus tailor effective communication. In todays post we are going to delve into the importance of emotional intelligence in being an effective leader.  

Self-Awareness

Firstly, being a good leader means being as self-aware as it does supportive of those you wish to empower and direct. In her talk, Lysa highlighted five emotional qualities that apply to good leadership. Perhaps surprisingly, the first three are all about the self – to be self-aware, self-regulating and self-motivated. Being a good leader demands that you know your own strengths and weaknesses and take steps to make yourself the best role model that you can. Only two of the five concern the relationship between the leader and their team – empathy and building relationships.

Understanding Motivational and Decision-Making Tendencies

A second message about leadership concerned the importance of good communication and how personalised the approach needs to be, to succeed. Lysa highlighted a number of key considerations when trying to rally support in a team.  The highlight of her session was a neat activity to demonstrate the importance of understanding motivational and emotional tendencies, it involves asking yourself some quick questions:

If you were to ask yourself what you are looking for in your next challenge at work, new car, purchase or relationship – would it be to solve the issues that you currently face, or do you want to achieve something new in its own right? The former is a tendency to think in term of problems and solutions, the latter by achievement.

If you look at the picture below, do you see five spherical fruits, or four orange oranges and one green apple? Some people have a tendency to focus on similarity and familiarity, whilst others are motivated by difference and change.

Being a good leader demands that you understand the preferences of your audience and communicate accordingly. If your team or stakeholders are problem-focused and like similarity, they will be more engaged by a project that promises to reduce risk. You’ll also need to emphasize that whilst change is being sought, there are many areas of continuity. Alternatively, if your colleagues are focused towards achievement and quick to embrace change, try to emphasize what a new project will deliver and how the new state will differ from Business as usual.

Whatever stage of project, or situation you find yourself in, always remember that differing opinions are not wrong, they are just that: different.

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