When selecting leaders for your organization, there are several important characteristics to look for in a strong candidate. For example, you probably want a leader with good delegation skills, the ability to lead change, the ability to create a vision, and execute that vision. All of these are admirable traits for a leader, but they tend to be mostly task-oriented.
It’s important to consider these types of behaviors in a leader because of the direct impact on the bottom line, but it’s essential to remember that this is only one part of the equation. A successful leader must also lead a team of employees, so you can’t ignore the softer skills when assessing candidates. One particular area on which you should focus your efforts is emotional intelligence.
Psychology Today defines emotional intelligence (EI) as “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others”. Though this definition seems simple enough, EI can be a very complex construct to measure. Select International recommends considering these distinct aspects of EI when considering a potential leader for your organization.
Self-Awareness/Self-Perception – A strong leader should be acutely aware of their own thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. They must be able to accurately identify and understand their strengths and weaknesses and have a value system that they’re unwilling to compromise.
Self-Esteem/Independence – If understanding and accepting one’s weaknesses is the first step to being a good leader, embracing that information is the second step. Good leaders should know how to leverage their strengths in order to compensate for areas of weakness. They should also be confident in their skills and authentic in behaviors and actions.
Social-Awareness/Social-Perception – It’s not enough just to understand oneself. Leaders must also be aware of the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of others. A leader should be able to objectively identify the strengths and weaknesses of others and anticipate the individual’s response to that analysis in order to tailor the message appropriately.
Self-Control/Stress Tolerance – Inevitably, all leaders will encounter stressful situations. It’s critical that leaders not only stay calm in the face of adversity but that they remain optimistic about the potential outcomes of the situation. They should be able to control their impulses and make sound decisions, even during times of tension, as a leader’s response to a challenging situation will set the tone for the rest of the team.
Empathy – This almost goes without saying. Someone who is in charge of leading a team should care about the welfare of others. Have respect for others and a sense of social responsibility is crucial to ensuring that employees feel valued as part of the team.
Adaptability/Flexibility – Situations often change. Someone in a leadership role needs to be able to adjust their behavior and attitude accordingly. This again is where the self-awareness comes into play- it’s not enough for a leader to recognize that he may be having a negative reaction to a challenging situation. They also need to be able to adjust his thoughts and emotions and adapt to the situation as needed.
Measuring EI can be tricky. Behaviorally based interview questions can get at some of the concepts, like stress tolerance or adaptability, but several aspects of EI deal with characteristics that are very personal to the candidate. Fortunately, there are other ways to measure EI when considering potential leaders.
Assessments that utilize a self-report can provide great insights into a candidate’s EI and personality. If considering internal candidates, a 360 evaluation may reveal important information about an employee’s emotional intelligence. Regardless of the method you choose for measuring a potential leader’s EI, it’s important that you consider this crucial construct when selecting a leader for your organization.