Leadership and Emotional intelligence

Leadership and Emotional intelligence

By: Ance Jourdi AYOBELE AYOBELE - Gabonese Cambridge and Arizona certified international teacher trainer, Africapitalist businessman, and thinker

The word "leadership "is one of the rare English words that has an English origin, which literally means "to go". Thus, the word "leadership" is associated with the idea of going somewhere together with others. For the psychological school of thoughts, the word "emotions" refers to mental reactions experienced as strong feelings directed towards a specific object and typically accompanied by psychological and behavioural changes in the body. These two words, put together for most of us, seem not to walk together. And even if for certain people they seem to marry perfectly, the understanding of their interconnectedness is still a huge void with a known beginning and an unknown end. In this article, we will focus on elucidating the place of emotional awareness in its different facets in effective leadership. We will shed enough light on how emotional intelligence is, by essence, an unarguable determinant of successful or unsuccessful leadership communication.

Human beings are emotional beings. This means that whether we see it or not, feel it or not, every person we interact with as a leader has activated emotions and dormant ones. Therefore, the question is never about if the person is in an emotional state but rather how intense the emotions the person is feeling at that specific moment are. This is exactly why, as a leader, it is extremely important to take into full consideration what those under our leadership feel at the moment we address them or are being addressed by them. It is impossible to lead a person in a direction where the person's emotions are not. This is where empathy comes into play. Empathy and sympathy are two different concepts. Being a sympathetic leader to the people we lead is one of the worst things we can do as leaders.

 I define sympathy as inactive compassion, or what religious people would probably call faith without deeds. Sympathy is manifested by a leader when he logically understands what another person feels emotionally without giving a practical response but rather only an oral response. It was the licenced Mental Health Counsellor Zandra Michel who stated, "Words are powerful tools, but actions send a message loud and clear. If your actions don’t match your words and promises, people will begin to lose trust in you." And the last thing you want as a leader is to be a confusing leader for your people, as this will lead to the loss of their trust. Empathy, on the other hand, is the capability to understand logically, feel emotionally, and respond practically to the emotions felt by another person. 

It is the result of a brain and heart that have mastered the art of fully putting oneself in others’ shoes. The challenge with empathy is that it is only possible once a leader is self-aware of his own emotions and knows how to respond and not just react to them. Self-emotional awareness in leadership is the ability of a leader to feel how and what he feels, face what he feels, understand what he feels, and accept what he feels. The next, and arguably most important, step is to understand the impact or damage that what he feels can cause to the people around him. Therefore, he consciously decides not to react to what he feels but to respond to it. The line between reacting to feelings and responding to them is thin. A response is a conscious, well-thought-out act, and a reaction is a pure cause-and-effect act coming from the human-animalistic dimension of men.

The most practical way to differentiate between an emotional response and an emotional reaction is that, after responding emotionally, we feel grown, mature, and in full control of ourselves and the situation. After reacting emotionally, we feel a deep sense of guilt and regret mixed with different pictures of all the wise things we could and should have done or said. But alas, our lack of self-control and clear exhibition of immaturity cannot be undone, unseen and unfelt by us, our victims, or the witnesses of our inability to lead our emotions in the right direction. Emotional intelligence in leadership is the secret ingredient of effective leaders’ communication.

Though it might be tempting to assume that by communication we refer to the ability to use words to express an idea or emotional state, it might be imperative to bring some facts into this clarification. According to Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, Albert Mehrabian, communication is 55% nonverbal, 38% vocal, and 7% words only.

 The previously mentioned statistics imply that approximately 93% of what people really want to express is done without using a single word. Consequently, being an effective communicator and leader is far from being just eloquent. It mostly gets down to the art of seeing, acknowledging, and understanding through interpretation and considering people’s feelings while expressing one’s thoughts and feelings. No matter how formulated, articulated, decorated, and rated our speech is, if it does not emerge from the four previously cited processes, it is an eloquent yet empty and mind-blowing yet cross-purposes speech. Without effective communication, there is effective confusion, and confusion in the hearts of a leader’s people is the number one reason for division, distraction, and self-destruction. In short, we can confidently say that the effectiveness of leadership is directly connected to the effectiveness of the communication skills of a leader.

Nevertheless, the efficiency of a leader’s communication has as its foundation the capacity of a leader to be more empathic than merely sympathetic. Last but not least, we highlighted the fact that whenever a person expresses an idea or a feeling, 97% of what the person really means is in the body language of the person and the tone of the voice of the person while speaking. Therefore, eloquence and effective communication should not be confused, as eloquence is directly and solely related to the appropriate use of words, which themselves only represent 7% of communication.