Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Challenges

Emotional intelligence skills provide developing leaders with an increased understanding of the impacts of emotions within a team or organization. Caruso and Salovey (2004) demonstrated the advantages EI has with respect to six common challenges in leadership: (a) building effective teams, (b) planning and deciding effectively, (c) motivating people, (d) communicating a vision, (e) promoting change, and (f) creating effective interpersonal relationships.

Throughout Caruso and Salovey’s descriptions of the six challenges, they cited a connection with Kouzes and Posner’s Effective Leadership Practices Model.

1. Building effective teams

The first challenge was building an effective team. Caruso and Salovey discussed the need for clarifying personal values before attempting to formulate team values. Like Kouzes and Posner’s model, Caruso and Salovey explained that leaders must identify their own values before clarifying team values. A significant level of trust is important for leading teams, and a leader must generate positive opportunities for meaningful team communication and interaction. Additionally, a leader must have significant self-confidence to give team members credit for accomplishments and not blame them when shortfalls occur.

2. Planning and deciding effectively

Caruso and Salovey went on to explain that even though planning and decision-making can seem cognitive and practical, emotions contribute significantly to these activities. Emotionally intelligent leaders possess the ability to remain flexible and open to other alternatives. Additionally, EI leaders take into account how their team members may react to a decision, and then attempt to make decisions that will fit in with the shared values of the team. In the end, this type of flexible decision-making will contribute to the successful implementation of the decision.

3. Motivating people

Every leader at one point or another is faced with the question of how to motivate a team. Caruso and Salovey cited Kouzes and Posner’s (2002) “encouraging the heart” model as a significant contribution to motivating a team. When a leader expresses appreciation for the accomplishments of team members, they are in many ways providing that added incentive for future successes. Caruso and Salovey also explained that it is important for a leader to celebrate team member successes without promoting or encouraging envy throughout the team.

4. Communicating a vision

Furthermore, communication is among the most difficult challenges to leadership. EI leaders base their communication efforts “on delivering a message [they] want to deliver and delivering it in such a way that is heard and understood by others”. Communication also entails a leader’s vision for the future. Caruso and Salovey emphasized that because an EI leader has the ability to understand and empathize with group feelings, he or she will be successful in encouraging team members to buy into their vision of the future.

5. Promoting change

In light of rapid worldly changes, a leader’s ability to facilitate and encourage change has been a hot topic recently. Caruso and Salovey (2004) explained that EI leaders challenge the status quo through innovation, experimentation, and risk-taking. They further explained that most people are resistant to change; however, EI leaders identify, empathize with, and acknowledge resistance and then communicate the need for change and clarify a road map toward successful implementation.

6. Creating effective interpersonal relationships

Building effective interpersonal relationships is the foundation of the emotionally intelligent leader. Caruso and Salovey (2004) explained that effective interpersonal relationships include both “positive feedback and sincere criticism”. Emotional intelligent leaders are able to generate relationships that are healthy and mature enough for members to express honest and tactful reactions with other members. Caruso and Salovey explained that “emotions contain data and [those] data are primarily communicating information about people and relationships. Being accurately aware of emotions and their meaning provides the emotional intelligent manager with a solid base of understanding of themselves and of others”. Along with understanding and interpreting emotions, it is equally important for leaders to understand the impact of emotions on individual and organizational performance.

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