Learning to Lead with Emotion

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is an integral part of being a good leader, but it’s sometimes not given the respect or attention it deserves. By knowing how to relate to people, you can build trust, motivation and understanding, all of which earn you the buy-in you need to get things done.

“To succeed, leaders must have a mindset that shows EQ, self-awareness and an ability to engage with others,” says Charlie Wagstaff, Managing Director of Executive Membership, Criticaleye.

“It’s a constant process of learning and evolution, whereby leaders and senior executives embrace experiences that stretch understanding and open themselves up to new perspectives.”

It all comes down to a number of key attributes. Here we discuss each one with a leader from the Criticaleye community:

Sandy Stash 
Group VP of Safety, Sustainability and External Affairs
Tullow Oil

Thirty years ago, those who shouted the loudest and were most confident were made CEO, but they were sometimes shouting so loud they weren’t reflecting on what others actually heard. I think it’s completely different now. You need to be aware of how your words are landing with people. In my mind that’s a lot about self-awareness.

For me, personal feedback has been crucial. I’ve had similar feedback in many of my 360 reviews over the years. My gift – and my weakness − is that I sometimes get too far ahead. Then I look around and nobody’s with me. I have to be constantly aware of that because otherwise I’ll lose my audience.

External feedback is a very powerful tool but the risk is holding a grudge. Leaders must go in seeing whatever response they receive as a gift. Honest self-reflection will allow you to decide whether you accept it or not, but the gift of feedback really can make you a better leader.

Simon Oates 
Director of Strategy
Southern Water

The teams or organisation that you’re leading will look to you to show a cool head and that you’re making decisions for the right reasons. That’s particularly true during a crisis. If a leader is exuding confidence through troubled times, the organisation will pick up on that and build on it.

When you stand up in front of colleagues and other companies you need to be true to yourself, but it is a performance. Yet it’s important to show some emotion. People need to see that you care. So when things are going really well, show pride in the direction and prospects of the company. The right use of emotion can enthuse and drive an organisation.

It’s about knowing when to express the right emotion. It’s important not to deny your feelings but still move quickly to a resolution.

Rob McWilliam
Vice President of Consumables
Amazon UK

When I think about leadership I start by asking how I would like to be led, which is why I always try to understand my team, what motivates them and how my behaviour impacts upon them.

As a leader you sometimes have to make difficult decisions. Empathy helps you know how to implement them in a way that’s respectful to those affected.

It’s important to stay close to the teams on the ground. Listening to them carefully is key to developing empathy. However I wouldn’t rely on that alone but in conjunction with data, for example using anonymous engagement surveys helps make more informed decisions.

Social skills
Colin Hatfield
Visible Leaders

Every leader has to build relationships with the stakeholders they want to influence and social skills lie at the heart of that. If you’re going to be influential and motivational you must have that connection with people and see each interaction as an opportunity to build that relationship.

There’s nothing to be embarrassed about having an agenda. A good leader tries to draw people into their cause to make things happen, but if it’s too transactional it can become exploitative. You can lose impact as a leader if you only let the role talk for you, rather than communicating more personally.

A socially skilful leader will understand people; curiosity and listening are big parts of that. It’s also about being flexible in your approach, because how you instil confidence in one person won’t be the same as how you do it with another.

Self-deprecation, humility, accessibility and humour also have a role to play. They let people know you’re not infallible, you’re a real person.

By Mary-Anne Baldwin, Editor – Corporate

Do you have a view on this subject? If you have an opinion that you’d like to share, please email Mary-Anne at: maryanneb@criticaleye.net



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