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How Can Leaders Learn Emotional Intelligence?

Start With These 3 Principles. A new book crowned Business Book of the Year 2023 outlines why emotional intelligence is so important, and how to practice it.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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Emotional Intelligence (EQ) has long been recognized as one of the most significant and impactful aspects of great leadership.

Since emotions are the gateway to our deeper humanity, connecting more consciously with our feelings gives us a more prosperous, heartfelt, and empathic relationship with life and leadership.

This, in turn, heightens energy and connectedness, which provide the foundation for higher levels of perception, vision, insight, and innovation.

Nicholas Janni, author of the book Leader as Healer, addresses a new paradigm in leadership. He believes we should stop thinking about positive or negative emotions and understand that joy, fear, sadness, and anger are essential parts of our humanity. His book, crowned Business Book of the Year 2023 in the U.K., outlines why this is so important, how to practice it, and many examples from corporate life.

Unlock your own emotions

Janni shares that you can never see the whole picture, however skilled, successful, or influential. Often, you carry an unattended package of emotional scars, hurts, and fears. According to Janni, most of its contents originate in childhood and include anything from minor indignities to severe adversity and trauma.

Janni writes that all emotions naturally fade and melt when we allow ourselves to feel them. When we block ourselves from feeling, we are left cold and numb--rather than moving through them to experience calm presence, openness, and greater compassion for ourselves and others.

Connect with people in a more human way

Janni writes that we have erected barriers around emotions at work. We need to embrace vulnerability as a way of being able to connect with our colleagues authentically. He shares a poignant example of a senior civil servant client in the U.K. working with a new government minister on a multibillion-pound project. The client reported massive tension within the project and constant arguing. It all changed one day. "We were walking together when, without much forethought, I told him that I was losing sleep over this project. He stopped, turned to me, and told me this was the most difficult project he had ever faced, and he was suffering from almost constant anxiety. Our relationship completely transformed in the exchange."

When working with other people, staying emotionally open allows you to connect with them to understand better and acknowledge how they feel.

Make space for people to share how they are feeling

"When leaders reasonably control their emotional intelligence, they can better hold unconditional space for others' emotions," shares Janni. A good leader can transform meetings when they invite a pause and openly acknowledge their feelings, such as anxiety while in the middle of a challenging project.

According to Janni, this kind of acknowledgment affords permission from everyone else in the room who may be experiencing similar feelings to acknowledge it. There is no need for judgment, overanalysis, or drama. No need to "fix it." It will take only a few minutes, yet the discussion that continues afterward will almost certainly be of a much higher quality because the individual and group have stopped fighting the anxiety.

Janni shares that this unconditional acknowledgment of our emotional realities prevents blaming, mudslinging, or other unwelcome outbursts. It's just wise practice. When leaders bring emotional intelligence to their teams, they create new levels of engagement, energy, and creative thinking. 

A call to action

Janni urges readers to break free from the imbalanced ways of thinking and functioning prevalent in many corporate cultures. These cultures prioritize doing over being and hyper-rational, analytical thinking over feeling, sensing, intuiting, and other transpersonal aspects of life.

The best solution is to lead with emotional intelligence. This means being logical, strategic, and discerning while inspiring authentic engagement, connectedness, and impactful collaboration.

Photo Credit: Getty Images.

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