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An Introduction to Emotional Intelligence - What Are Its Benefits to Leaders?

by Margaret Bell | August 20, 2018

Emotional intelligence is a relatively recent addition to the spectrum of human understanding. If you asked someone in 1978 what makes an intelligent person, the answer would have been a uniform parade of - "well read", "good at critical thinking", "studied hard at school".

In 2018, the answers you receive might be a little different. Of course, traditional 'book smarts' are still important, as are good grades, but you are likely to hear mention of other aspects of intelligence - "good social skills", for example, "innovative", or "emotionally intelligent".

So what exactly is emotional intelligence? Schools across the world are waking up to its power and increasing numbers of countries are recognising the importance of building emotional intelligence into their curricula. Why is this?

Let's start with what it is. 

Emotional intelligence is defined as an understanding, and a degree of control, in relation to one’s feelings. It is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and also to recognise the emotional state of others. As we humans are emotional beings, it is little wonder why this is so important in our daily lives.

But what about in leadership? Why do leaders benefit from high levels of emotional intelligence? Why is emotional intelligence necessary for leaders?

The first answer to this question - or set of questions - is an obvious one: humans are not robots. If you are a leader and you are simply telling your team what to do in the same way you might program commands into a machine, you are going to make very little progress. If, instead, you understand the emotional reactions of your team and the ways in which your actions interact with their reactions, you will be able to work with your team to make real progress.

Secondly, a high emotional intelligence can aid with the critical thinking abilities of a leader. A good leader considers his or her objectives and then how to muster the resources required to hit these objectives, but they must also consider the toll taken on their own emotions and on the emotions of others in their charge. This increases the agility of a leader's thought processes.

There is no reason why today's young people should not be able to fully develop their emotional intelligence. Organisations like the Learning Ground at Mount Druitt seek to break the cycle of disadvantage and to deliver developmental opportunities for young people, not only to become leaders of the future, but great people first and foremost.

This is something we are going to be looking at in more detail over the coming weeks. I hope you can join us on this journey deeper into emotional understanding and intelligence.

Margaret Bell, AM - Founder and CEO of Chain Reaction Foundation.

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