Emotional intelligence is the silent engine of leadership effectiveness. It may not get the same attention as strategic acumen or financial savvy, but it’s the glue that holds a team together. As a successful small business owner, prioritizing emotional intelligence is not just about being a better leader; it’s about building a more resilient, adaptive, and ultimately successful business.

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There are five pillars of emotional intelligence in business — self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. These are crucial for a leader because they contribute to effective team management and business success in several ways. 

1. Self-Awareness: Self-awareness allows leaders to understand their own strengths and weaknesses, helping them make more informed decisions. Further, the more self-aware a leader is, the more adept they will be at reading the room and the emotional undercurrents within their teams that can significantly impact productivity and morale. 

Lisa Rehurek is the founder and CEO of The RFP Success Company.

I’ve worked for non-self-aware leaders before. It’s ugly. The ego is in play and it’s detrimental to everyone involved. People can see right through it and no one wants to work for that leader. 

2. Self-Regulation: Leaders who master self-regulation set a powerful example for their team. By managing their emotions, especially under stress, they maintain a clear-minded approach to problem-solving and decision-making. This aspect of emotional intelligence ensures that the leader’s actions are consistent and measured, avoiding knee-jerk reactions that could undermine their authority or the stability of the business.

Think of it like being a parent. While I’m not a parent, I have seen this at work many times. If the parent becomes emotionally charged, the child amps up their emotions. It’s no different in business. It starts at the top. 

3. Motivation Beyond Money: While financial incentives are important, they’re not the be-all and end-all for employee motivation. A leader who understands the intrinsic drivers that inspire their team – such as the need for mastery, autonomy, and purpose – can cultivate a more deeply motivated workforce. By aligning business goals with employees’ personal values and aspirations, leaders can unlock a higher level of commitment and innovation.

Here at my company, we do motivational assessments to get a clear understanding of what motivates each employee. It goes beyond skill and behaviors, and allows us to better understand how to lead and manage them. 

4. Empathy in Action: An empathetic leader is skilled at sensing others’ feelings and perspectives. This capability allows them to connect with employees on a personal level, building trust and loyalty. Empathy in leadership doesn’t mean always agreeing with the team or avoiding tough decisions. It means considering the personal impacts of business actions and communicating decisions in a way that shows understanding and respect for the team’s perspective. 

For example, when your CFO needs forecast numbers and your team is starting to feel burnout from their entire workload, that’s when an emotionally intelligent leader steps in to find a solution to make sure everyone gets what they need. 

5. Social Skills for Synergetic Success: Leaders with high emotional intelligence are adept at finding win-win situations, managing negotiations, and persuading and influencing others in a way that maintains positive relationships. By fostering a collaborative environment, they create a culture where everyone feels they have a stake in the business’s success. 

Think of the last time you bought a new car. What was your experience? Was the salesperson out for himself, or was there a good solid win-win negotiation? It should never feel like there’s a winner and a loser, whether it’s in buying a car or fostering that collaborative environment. 

These five pillars contribute to effective team management and business success in several ways: From enhanced decision-making and effective conflict resolution; to stronger team cohesion, better communication, and increased performance and productivity. 

I remember back in my corporate days, the leader of the practice did an all-employee presentation about the state of the practice. He shared what made him nervous, who he seeks for advice, and gave us confidence that we’d see continued growth. At the time, I wasn’t in tune with Emotional Intelligence, but looking back, he was one of the most emotionally intelligent leaders I’ve seen. There was no ego, he truly wanted the best for the practice and each one of us. You felt it, and people were wildly loyal to him. 

Overall, these pillars contribute to a leader’s ability to foster a positive work culture, drive engagement, and lead a team to success in a sustainable and adaptable manner.

Author: Lisa Rehurek is a kind, spunky, rule-breaking entrepreneur who thrives on creatively pushing past fear, taking risks, chasing audacious goals, and inspiring others to do the same. She is the founder & CEO of The RFP Success Company, an impactful seven-figure business that helps small certified diverse and mid-market businesses secure millions of dollars in state government contracts. Lisa is among the top 2% of women business owners, as well as a best-selling author, speaker, trainer and podcast host. Her newest publication, Winning in State Government: A Roadmap for RFP Success, was released this fall. Lisa recently led her company to be named one of Inc. 5000’s fastest-growing private companies in America.