Project LeadershipProject Management

4 Essential Habits to Becoming a More Emotionally Intelligent Leader

Sure, you have read article upon article on how to be the best leader you can be. But what does it really take? According to project leadership coach Susanne Madsen in a post for the PM Perspectives Blog, emotional intelligence is one of the most critical factors. Here are four essentials habits that will take you to the next level of leadership:

  1. Respond rather than react to situations.
  2. Notice what is going on for other people.
  3. Actively listen to people when they speak.
  4. Embrace crucial conversations.

Read the Situation

When you choose to “react” to the situation at hand, you do so fully out of emotion. There is no cooling down or thought process. As a leader, that cannot be an option. Rather, you must let yourself react to the situation. Reacting means not saying the first thing that comes into your head, which is fueled by anger or frustration, when someone regularly turns in work late. It is taking a timeout, counting to 10, and choosing the most appropriate response so that you do not default to your automatic reaction. Now, you can take your team member aside, tell them how you feel and the implications of late work, and offer a solution/plan so better results are produced. Taking responsibility for your emotions and the impact they have on your surroundings creates a safe environment for your team to freely communicate.

Next, take notice about how other people are feeling about their situation. You need to slow down and take a genuine interest in people–your team members and stakeholders alike. This is vital of any emotionally intelligent leader. Short of being in the middle of a crisis, give the person coming to you your undivided attention. Don’t spout off some remedial, generic reply as resolution. Take into account what he or she may be feeling and why that might be.

Actively listen when people speak. This correlates with the previous habit. Madsen suggests that there are three levels to listening. The first level is where people are hearing what the other person is saying, but it coincides with your own internal dialogue. You really are not processing or paying attention to what they are saying. The second level of listening occurs when you are fully present and focused on the other person. The highest level of listening however occurs when not only are you using your ears to listen, but you are so engaged that your other senses are being utilized to decipher what is truly the heart of the issue. “When you open up and use all your senses to connect with a team member it will be much easier to relate to read them and to understand what really make them tick,” says Madsen.

Lastly, be brave about crucial conversations. A crucial conversation is defined as something involving high stakes, opposing opinions, and strong emotion on one or both sides. As mentioned above, being a leader does not mean you can’t feel anger or fear, but you must be relaxed and in control. You may dread giving feedback on a member’s poor performance or delivering news to a client about a delay or cost overrun. Even more so, butting heads with team members when you can’t see eye to eye poses an obstacle. Before going into these conversations, prepare ahead. You may even ask the other person to do the same:

What is the problem? How do I feel about it? What would my counterpart say the problem is? What is my preferred outcome? What is my preferred working relationship with my counterpart? 

To sum it up, emotionally intelligent leaders listen to the fullest extent, allows time for issues to digest before addressing them, and are fully attentive to their team members. You can view the original post here:

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