Dealing with emotions is key leadership skill

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Managing emotions and emotional intelligence (EI) are not new, much has been written and continues to be written on the subject since Daniel Goleman popularised the term in his landmark publication in 1995. I raise the subject because from time to time we are reminded some leaders more than others still have some distance to travel to develop EI.

The instance that reminded me of the importance of emotional intelligence was a discussion with a manager who was achieving and more often than not exceeding the required outcomes. He worked long hours in a high pressure environment and was viewed by his organisation as having potential to take on greater responsibility if only he could better respond to the stresses of his role and not alienate those around him.

In discussion it became clear that he was lacking in emotional self-awareness, an essential EI competency. An important clue came to the surface when he said the emotions he could clearly recognise and describe were happy, sad, anger, and fear. Emotional self-awareness is only one of 12 elements that make EI competencies[1] and the four emotions are part of a multitude of emotions we can experience[2]. Research[3] suggests there is a causal link between stress and how developed is our EI.

What could we do to assist this leader to handle the stresses of his role better? Wiens and McGee offer valuable insights into ways of dealing with stress from an emotionally intelligent perspective:

  • Avoid becoming a source of your own stress. We do things to our bodies that only lead to more stress when stressed e.g. over eating, alcohol, and pushing ourselves harder by working longer hours.
  • Recognise your limitations. Understand your strengths as well as your limitations and when demand outweighs your capacity to deliver – don’t go it alone, be willing to ask for help.
  • Revaluate your perspective on the situation. Do you view a particular situation as a threat to something you value? Do you see it as an insurmountable problem or do you see it as a challenge to be met for which you are going to develop a solution.   Changing perspective brings your stress level down.
  • Deescalate situations by placing yourself in the other person’s shoes. Be inquisitive, ask questions, and listen intently. Focus on what they are trying to tell you. By seeking to understand their perspective you’ll be in a much better position to gain trust and exert influence.
  • Apply the array of mindfulness techniques that are available. This will enable you to reduce emotions and defensiveness.

Developing EI enables you to manage your stress effectively, plus it reduces stress on those around you, however it will take time to develop your EI so invest the time and ‘go easy’ on yourself.

Viventé Australia enables leaders and managers develop the bond between people and performance, creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its best.



[1] Emotional Intelligence has 12 Elements. Which do you need to work on?; Daniel Goleman and Richard E.  Boyatzis


[3] Kandi Wiens and Annie McGee in their study ‘Leading through Burnout’