Harnessing the Power of Emotional Intelligence as a Leadership Skill

Amo-Harnessing Power July 15, 2021 By: Sheila Amo

These days, so many people are looking for authenticity, empathy, and transparency in their leaders. That takes more than technical agility, it requires emotional intelligence. Find out why that matters as a leadership competency.

When considering what makes a great leader, we often hear many qualities bandied about like decisiveness, charisma, integrity, strategic thinker, and skilled communicator. Objectively, abilities like these are typically classified as technical or hard skills. They’re highly valued and easily measured. Leaders either have them or they don’t.

In a 2014 TED Talk, Amy Edmondson, the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business Review, discussed the need to create psychological safety in the workplace, and since that time the need has only increased. This talk touched on what many HR professionals have known for some time—emotional intelligence matters as a leadership competency.

What we’ve learned through the ongoing global pandemic and modern civil rights movement is that leaders must excel beyond just technical skills. In fact, in the last 18 months, the most successful leaders have recognized the importance of authentic engagement and harnessed its power when relating to their staff, membership, and additional stakeholders.  

Authentic engagement may sound new age and trendy, however, the concept is significant because it describes a thoughtful and profound way of showing up in life. A way that informs your relationship to yourself, others, and the world. It’s a way of showing up that, when harnessed, allows leaders to be the best version of themselves and experience better outcomes.

Through authentic engagement, leaders will be empowered to overcome avoidance, insincerity, and opacity in their interactions.

In today’s climate, organizations are experiencing change and transition due to shifting business priorities which, in some measure, are affected by external societal demands. It’s simply not enough to be technically sound. Leaders must also be emotionally intelligent and culturally competent. Stakeholders expect leaders to boldly confront topics of the day with courage, compassion, and resilience. When looking to enhance their authentic engagement abilities, leaders will need to regularly practice and cultivate the following skills:

Self-awareness. This means exploring and opening yourself to learning about who you are. Insightful self-awareness facilitates self-discovery, accessibility, and depth. As a leader, it can help you explore blind spots and be more open to hearing and seeing yourself through the eyes of others.

Curiosity. The ability to explore the world, connect with others, and be a student of life. Radical curiosity facilitates human connection and relationship building. As a leader, it can improve your listening skills, help you become more transparent, increase your capacity for compassion, and enhance your ability to participate in appropriate levels of self-disclosure. 

Empathy. Being able to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of other people. Infinite empathy facilitates sharing and participation. It allows a leader to experience another person’s viewpoint and promotes the ability to genuinely meet the universal needs of their staff, membership, and stakeholders to feel seen, heard, and valued.

Vulnerability. A willingness to be open, show weakness, and admit when you’ve made a mistake. Courageous vulnerability promotes trust-building and genuineness. It allows a leader to show their human side and free themselves from the pressure to always have the right answer.

Regular cultivation and practice of these skills will not only improve a leader’s ability to authentically engage, but it will also build their emotional intelligence muscle and better prepare them to address difficult circumstances and times. The challenges won’t fade, but through authentic engagement, leaders will be empowered to overcome avoidance, insincerity, and opacity in their interactions.

More than ever, employees and stakeholders are craving connection, authenticity, empathy, and transparency. They want to know their leaders are attuned to what’s affecting them. Having leaders who practice authentic engagement will promote safety, engender trust, and positively affect organizational culture. By showing up in a meaningful way, leaders can truly be the best version of themselves.

Sheila Amo

Sheila Amo, SPHR, is a strategist, coach, and consultant.