How Emotional Intelligence can be vital for leaders during COVID-19


How Emotional Intelligence can be vital for leaders during COVID-19

August 03, 2020

Let’s analyse a situation here.

Suppose an employee is going through anxiety during this WFH period. The employee approaches his/her leader, to share what they are going through, and asks for some time off. Now here are 3 situations showing how 3 different managers deal with it.

  1. Manager 1 empathizes with the employee, talks with him/her, understands the situation, and grants him/her time to deal with the problems. He also offers some references for external help.
  2. Manager 2 advises the employee to refer to some external aid but asks to continue the work as the company is already short of people and the work is piling up
  3. Manager 3 does not heed to his/her problem and asks them not to focus on such things, continue work, and keep busy, as this is all made-up and not real.

Which manager, do you think, is more fit for a successful organization?
Though Manager 3 may seem the right choice for any organization, as he’s trying to maintain the workflow, it is Manager 1 who is the ideal here. Why? Because he empathizes with his/her employee and has an emotional understanding apart from being work-focussed. Manager 2 although understands the employee’s problem, did little to help him/her out.

In these times of elated stress levels, emotional understanding has become crucial, especially for the team leaders to handle the team sensibly. Emotional Intelligence (EI) or Emotional Quotient (EQ) a part of the leadership, often ignored, has become a crucial responsibility for leaders during COVID-19.


What is Emotional Intelligence?

An article published by NCBI defines Emotional Intelligence as “the ability to monitor one's own and other people's emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour.”

In the workplace, Emotional Intelligence gets useful while dealing with the employees, clients, or any other third party. An Economic Times article states that the Emotional Quotient involves the balance of maintaining the team members’ morale and engagement while preparing them for the worst. Being emotionally available can have a profound positive impact on such relationships. Understanding the employees’ emotions, their state of mind, the pressures and stresses they are undergoing can help the leaders manage the team better. That’s what differentiates a leader that leads from that who inspires.


How does Emotional Intelligence help leaders?

  1. Thinking rationally
    ‘A leader leads by example.’ For a leader, it is imperative that he/she does not let his emotions overshadow his/her decisions. Emotional intelligence builds that capacity to manage situations rationally and not let the emotions overpower. This capability helps a leader to make the right decisions, no matter the circumstances and the criticality.
  2. Listening and not hearing
    Though they might sound similar, there’s a huge difference between them. And that’s what makes one of the main distinguishing factors for a good leader. Listening to the problems of the employees like how they might feel lonely staying at home during COVID-19 alone, or their building anxiety, or just missing the office vibe, can make them feel comfortable. These things, though seemingly small, change the employee’s perspective towards the work and the team.
  3. Inculcating confidence
    Having tamed the emotions and the power to understand one’s and other’s emotions builds confidence in a leader to guide the team in better ways. A leader has to deal with the great stress of managing his/her team, reporting to the superiors, taking responsibility for every action taken by the team (especially when things go south), and more. Having the confidence that he/she is a good leader and that he/she can handle the tough situations calmly can give a significant boost.
  4. Communicating vision
    In tough times like the COVID-19 pandemic, it gets all the more important to keep reminding the team of the greater vision of the organization. An emotionally balanced leader can fill up the team with positivity, which is much-needed at this time. He/she can very effectively communicate that vision to the team which gives them the motivation to keep going no matter what.


How to develop Emotional Intelligence?

As a leader, Emotional Intelligence can be developed by understanding its key components. There are 5 key components of Emotional Intelligence:

  1. Self-awareness
    “It starts with you.” The phrase holds true while dealing with situations where one has to handle other’s emotions. A leader should be able to understand his/her own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, values, motivations in order to recognize other’s feelings. It’s important to realize how one’s own emotions impact them, to be able to support others emotionally. So, self-awareness is the first step to being an effective leader.
  2. Discipline
    As much as it is important to promote and instigate positive emotions, it is equally important to redirect or channel the negative emotions, so that they do not impact self and others. It is imperative to maintain calm and balance while managing the team. A leader cannot go all berserk when things are not working out. The ability to control the overpowering negative emotions and guide the team rationally is a true sign of a good leader.
  3. Empathy
    Empathy means putting oneself to someone else’s shoes and understand how they feel. A leader can offer his best support to an employee only if he realizes his/her situation. For instance, if an employee informs that his/her productivity is degrading due to WFH, the leader needs to understand the reason for it. Getting to the root o the problem can bring out the best solution. An empathetic leader opens up the window for the employees to approach him/her with their issues. This is critical for the growth of any organization.
  4. Relationship management
    Relationship management has been gaining light in the work world, especially for people who need to create their network. It is important for leaders to maintain a healthy relationship with their team. Though everyone has a family, a friendly environment back in the office fills the team with positivity and a leader plays a major role in building that rapport. Right now, as most of the employees are working from home, a leader should ensure that the team is well-connected through calls to maintain healthy relationships.
  5. Effective communication
    Communication is the key to building a strong team. Miscommunication or lack of communication can lead to frustrations and negativity among the team, even more, when WFH and virtual communications can increase the gap. Constant communication with each team member is an equally important role of a leader. Effective communication encourages healthy workplace relationships.

    As critical as managing skills are for a good leader, the potential of emotional quotient holds tremendous powers for him/her as well. At this time, when everybody is looking out for support from each other, it is a leader’s responsibility to take care of his/her team. But a leader may also need support. That’s where emotionally available helps everyone. Being open and sharing their feelings with each other in the team is going to help all of us survive this difficult time.

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