Leading Change with Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a primary driver of leadership effectiveness. Numerous research studies identify EQ as more important than technical skills, industry knowledge, and other factors that set apart top-performing leaders. EQ expert Daniel Goleman credits emotional intelligence for 90% of the difference between star performers and average ones in senior leadership roles.

EQ is essential to successfully lead change since change elicits a wide range of emotional responses from those who are affected by it. It’s imperative that leaders in high-change environments continually work to improve their EQ.

In his best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Dr. Travis Bradberry describes EQ as having four dimensions. The first two dimensions focus on one’s self, and the last two are focused on others. They can be summarized as follows:

Self-awareness is the ability to recognize your own emotions and how they affect your response to the situation at hand. It includes the ability to understand the impact of your emotions on those around you.

Self-management is the ability to leverage the awareness of your emotions to respond to situations in positive and productive ways. It includes an understanding of how circumstances or actions trigger your emotional responses.

Social awareness is the ability to recognize the emotions of other people and how these emotions influence their responses to situations. Empathy is a crucial component of social awareness.

Relationship management is the ability to use your awareness of the emotions of other people to manage your interactions with them. It’s essential to building healthy relationships.

Fortunately, you can improve in each of these EQ dimensions with intentional practice. To do so, you must lean into the emotional dynamics of change rather than avoiding or overlooking them. Developing stronger EQ may require you to stretch beyond your comfort zone as you identify and address your team’s emotional needs.

One typical emotional response to change is fear. That’s true for leaders as well as their team members. There may be a fear of both failure and success. Some people fear potential failure of the change initiative and consequences that may result. Others may be more fearful of changes that will be required if the initiative is successful.

Rather than suppressing these fears, acknowledge them and envision a positive response to them.  Enhance your self-awareness and self-management skills by reflecting on the following questions:

  • What most concerns you about this change?
  • How can you address these concerns in a healthy manner?
  • How can you guard against an unhealthy response to these concerns?
  • Who can support you during this process?

Next, focus on your social awareness and relationship management skills. Ask the same questions of your team members, listening carefully to their responses. Then, ask an additional question to demonstrate your support: How can I help you navigate these concerns?

Developing better EQ will increase your overall leadership effectiveness as well as your likelihood of success in leading critical change initiatives.

This article was first published on the LeadChange blog.


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