Why emotional intelligence is key for project leaders05 Jul 2019
Project leaders with a high degree of emotional intelligence are better equipped to identify what their team need to succeed. They are both self aware and socially aware, able to regulate their own reactions and understand how their behaviour impacts the whole team.
Emotional intelligence and leadership
While technical knowledge is very valuable, it’s emotional intelligence that allows a project lead to create a top-performing team. Leaders who are self aware understand how their behaviour affects the individuals around them and use that knowledge to cultivate a productive environment.
Leaders who are self aware understand how their behaviour affects those around them.
As an example, I once had an employee who excelled at every area of their role except one. Rather than simply telling them to improve, I asked them to explain why they were struggling. It turned out they didn’t entirely understand that part of the job and spent as much time worrying about the task as they did actually doing it.
In my opinion, leaders who connect with employees in this way inspire better team spirit. The employee knows that they are part of a wider effort. Their achievements are not just their own, but contribute to everybody’s success. By creating the opportunity for an honest and non-judgmental conversation, I got to the root of the problem and was able to help them improve through some additional training. I also made it clear that asking for help or working with others is okay and prompted the employee to collaborate more closely with their immediate colleagues.
The importance of emotional intelligence in project management
Creating a safe and positive environment
Aware of other people’s feelings, emotionally intelligent project leads have the ability to create environments where employees feel welcomed, valued and confident.
These types of leaders encourage creativity, innovation and new perspectives. Employees feel confident discussing ideas because they know their colleagues will listen and value their contribution. In turn, leaders have a team who actively want to improve how they work and create better project outcomes.
Influencing and leading change
Emotionally intelligent leaders understand that disagreement and discussion is healthy and valuable. They’re not afraid of having their own suggestions questioned, or having their ego bruised when others don’t agree with their approach.
Emotionally intelligent leaders understand that disagreement and discussion is healthy.
This attitude is contagious and encourages a can-do approach. Employees believe in the judgment and abilities of their leader, adapting their mindset to match.
Communication and development
Good project leaders know that telling someone they’ve done a terrible job rarely improves the quality of output. Leaders with high emotional intelligence can detect what drives an individual to succeed. With this knowledge they can offer constructive advice and support in a way that motivates each individual person.
Leaders who are able to work with their employees in this way encourage improvement rather than an acceptance of failure. They allow their colleagues to stretch and challenge themselves without fear of failure, which only improves the quality of the project.
Problems with a lack of emotional intelligence
Project leaders without emotional intelligence risk creating a stressful environment where team members are more inclined to work in isolation.
An inability to communicate skillfully can lead to strained relationships because individuals don’t feel they can share problems or concerns. Employees are scared to try new approaches for fear of being reprimanded if it doesn’t work out. This lack of collaboration and innovation not only affects productivity, but prevents beneficial social connections as well.
Where relationships are already difficult, it’s down to the project lead to diffuse conflict. However, this is difficult if they’re not good at reading emotions or empathising with the opinions of their colleagues.
Emotional intelligence training
Emotional intelligence is a skill that you can learn. If you’re keen to improve your ability to connect and empathise, take a look at our developing emotional intelligence course, available in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.