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I had occasion lately to ponder the linkage between Emotional Intelligence and Leadership.  In the article The Characteristics of a Leader: Demonstrating Good Leadership Skills we identified two characteristics of leadership as being Straightforward and Fair-minded.  Let’s explore how these relate to Emotional Intelligence.

As a reminder, being straightforward is about using sound judgment to make good decisions at the right time.  It’s about staying focused, planning, and not making rash decisions on the spur of the moment. 

How many of us get caught up in the daily fires, get a little blind-sided by a quick question and then make a call without weighing the pros and cons of all possible options?  It happens and we often reflect back and wish we had spent a little more time thinking through the possible consequences prior to making a decision.  The link to emotional Intelligence here is an emotionally intelligent manager knows their own emotions, what motivates them to act and make decisions, and then can manage their emotions and impulses. 

Fair-minded is displaying empathy by being sensitive to the feelings, values, interests, and well-being of others.  This is the other portion of emotional intelligence recognizing others emotions and being able to manage those feelings.  You may say that as a manager you don’t own the emotions and feelings of the people around you.  To a certain extent you are correct.  There are those very real situations where, as a manager, you make a decision or take an action that very much touches the feelings and interests of the people around you.

Let’s pull this together with an example.  You just received the okay to open a requisition for an additional manager in your department.  The role has not been posted but you have a couple internal candidates in mind that have been being groomed for promotion.  As usual, you have two fires that popped up, a huge project going in two days from now and you are very distracted with it all.  Coincidentally one of the employees that is being groomed for a manager role stops by your office to discuss their development and ask if there are any additional roles being created in the near future.  With excitement you tell them you were able to get the go ahead on an additional manager and let them know they have done a great job on their development and they would be just right for the job!  Good news right?  The employee leaves excited about their new opportunity and you have fast paced the hiring process.  Five minutes later the head of HR calls and let’s you know there is a hiring freeze for six months and the requisition will have to be put on the back burner…indefinitely.

What just happened?  You just set yourself up to have a difficult conversation with what will likely be an unhappy employee.  So what could have gone better?  First, the manager would have been wise to stop and focus on the situation at hand.  Take a moment to gather their thoughts and not have a quick conversation with the employee.  The manager was not able to focus and plan the conversation.  If they had taken a moment they would have realized the role was not posted, the ink was not dry and that the best hiring decision would be made by going through the established interview process.  Second, had the manager taken the time to think through the possible scenarios, they would have realized the emotional impact of promising the role to the employee.  Instead of taking the time to formulate a response that would motivate the other person to continue working on their development, the manager sent the signal the employee is ready for the role but because of “the man”, they won’t get promoted. It will be difficult for the employee to focus on continued skill development in preparation for a possible promotion.

As managers in the organization, we must learn and practice leadership skills.  What we may consider incidental conversations and actions that occur daily, define us as either leaders or managers (see Leadership vs. Management: What are the Characteristics of a Leader and a Manager).  As a leader we have to know what will impact the emotions of our employees and take the time to focus on the situation at hand and plan conversations in order to be an emotionally intelligent leader