Episode 54: Emotional Intelligence- A Valuable Skill for Nonprofit Leaders

March 12, 2020

by: Sheela Nimishakavi

Emotional intelligence is one of those buzz words that gets thrown around. In fact, it’s easier to spot when someone lacks it, than when someone has it. But emotional intelligence is actually one of the most important skills that nonprofit leaders can develop, particularly right now.

As nonprofit bosses, our teams are looking to us for guidance. Many of us are feeling those same emotions that our team members are feeling, so how can we continue to lead and to be that person that our team members can lean on? That conversation starts with emotional intelligence

What is Emotional Intelligence?

We’ve often been brought up to think that emotions are irrational and they are the reasons that our plans go awry. In our society we really put a lot of emphasis on so-called logic. But what’s been interesting to see is that through the work of behavioral economists and psychologists we’ve seen that even though we think that humans are rational creatures, so many of our decisions are emotional ones.

Emotional intelligence at the very basic level, is being aware of our own emotions and managing them, and then recognizing others’ emotions, feeling empathy, and understanding what to do with their emotions.

The idea is to use our emotions to make better decisions. It’s embracing emotion, not trying to fight against it, and leveraging these feelings for optimal decision making. Because again, we are not logical beings, we are emotional ones- and even at work when we think we are being logical, we are actually using our intuition and our emotion to make decisions.

I think the most important information to come out of all the research into emotional intelligence is that it’s okay to be emotional. It’s okay to embrace emotion, and you don’t need to suppress your emotions just because you’re in a work setting. But, let’s see how we can utilize emotion to optimize our work interactions, particularly when it comes to managing a team or navigating difficult situations.

Advantages of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence helps us navigate the more complicated parts of our jobs- the politics, the interpersonal stuff. If all we had to do was our jobs, we would all be fantastic at it- right? We’d be typing away at our computers, getting things done. But regardless of what your role is, you do not do it in isolation. You have to work with a team so your technical skills will only get you so far.

In 1995, Dan Goleman published the groundbreaking book, Emotional Intelligence. The basic point of his book is that higher emotional intelligence correlates with positive outcomes such as: reduced anxiety and stress, better communication, more satisfying relationships, more ability to overcome obstacles, and being better at facing conflicts.

All of these skills are critical to success in the workplace. We want team members who can navigate conflicts with each other skillfully, and as leaders we want to be the ones to help our team members navigate conflicts so that we can all get back to working together. We also want our team members not to give up whenever they face a challenge. This is especially in nonprofit work where we need to be creative and nimble, and figure out solutions with few resources.

In Conclusion

Research on emotion and emotional intelligence shows that emotion should not be barred from the workplace. Rather, emotional intelligence is perhaps one of the most valuable qualities we can develop in ourselves as nonprofit leaders.

To learn more about how you can develop your own emotional intelligence, press play above!


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