Emotional Intelligence, Reflection and Leadership may not appear at first to be compatible terms, when we think of leaders in the context of being bossy and emotional intelligence in terms of understanding emotions. However, the truth is, leadership and emotional intelligence are very closely related, for leaders need to be emotionally intelligent if they are to be good leaders. Leaders must therefore be reflective if they are to be able to identify the changes they need to undertake in their lives to be truly effective leaders.
Through reflection, leaders are able to become more self-aware, to be more apt to communicate and express their feelings, and consequently to build better relationships with others. This relationship between reflection, emotional intelligence and leadership is one that affects everyone, not just those that are declared to be leaders.
Who is a Leader?
It is generally thought that a leader is someone who is hired in that role, one who is a boss, who may be hired to head a department or corporation, or one who is the head of a political party. While these are examples of leaders, leaders can be ordinary people in everyday life. Basically, as shown in the book, Leadership beyond the Job: 30 Ways Older Teens and Young Adults to Develop Effective Leadership Capabilities, a leader is anyone who influences others and motivates them in developing positive qualities and behaviours (Shockness, 2019 ).
While a formal leader is one who is hired, elected, appointed or selected to hold a formal role, an informal leader is anyone who influences others. Informal leadership could be where an individual is perceived by others as directing or influencing how they behave. This could easily happen within families where older siblings are perceived as leaders by their younger siblings (Shockness, 2019).
Why Must a Leader be Emotionally Intelligent?
Emotional intelligence is described as having several components, namely, self-awareness, empathy, ability to handle emotions, managing feelings and having the motivation to consider not only one’s emotions, but the emotions of others (Shockness, 2017). Emotional intelligence is further described as the quality of being able to get along with others, and this involves being able to understand others and to understand the emotions that they are experiencing at a given point in time.
In other words, someone who is emotionally intelligent would be aware of how other people’s emotions are affecting their behaviour, and would also have a good understanding of how their own emotions and behaviours are affecting other people. For example, an emotionally intelligent person would know how his harsh response could make another people feel and would know that this would not be the right response considering several factors. In that case, the emotionally intelligent person would know that a different response is necessary.
The emotionally intelligent person would also be self-aware. Self-awareness also helps an individual to understand how they are affecting others. This skill of self-awareness is therefore an important skill that an effective leader must have. Emotional intelligence can therefore be described as comprising of four tasks, namely, self awareness, being aware of one’s emotions and how these affect one’s behaviour; self-management, being able of how to manage one’s emotions; social awareness, or awareness of the people around with whom one interreacts; and relationship management, or knowing how to manage one’s behaviour to have an effect on the behaviour of others.
The Role of Reflection
Reflection must play an important part in the lives of effective leaders. If leaders are to ensure they understand those they influence, they need to take a look back at some of their interactions to see how these interactions may have played out. These leaders may question whether their actions demonstrated empathy and whether they need to change these interactions in the future to bring about better relationships with their followers. It is in reflective sessions that a leader or anyone, for that matter, can engage in looking back at his or her actions and interactions, and noting if these were appropriate, went well, or are in need improvement.
Reflection therefore provides opportunity for greater growth in self-awareness, and self-awareness is seen as the foundational ingredient in effective leadership. When leaders engage in self-reflection, they are able to see their successes and the failures (Bailey & Rehman, March 4, 2022). Although Bailey and Rehman were making reference to business leaders, this idea applies to anyone who may be a formal or informal leader.
While these leaders are able to see their successes as reinforcement of what is working, they can see failures as examples of what needs to be improved. If they find their relationships are not working out as well as they would like, engaging in self reflection could go a long way to helping these keaders become more self aware. Becoming more self aware helps to build emotional intelligence and leads to even more effective leadership. This applies to formal as well as informal leaders, and to everyone who has impacts on others.
Bailey, J. R. & Rehman, S. (March 4, 2022). Don’t Underestimate the power of self-reflection. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2022/03/dont-underestimate-the-power-of-self-reflection
Shockness, I. (2019). Leadership Beyond the Job: 30 Ways for Older Teens and Young Adults to Develop Effective Leadership Skills. Vanquest Publishing.
Shockness, I. (2017). Developing Emotional Intelligence: 30 Ways for Older Teens and Young Adults to Develop Caring Capabilities. Vanquest Publishing