How to Manage Upwards to Develop an Emotionally Intelligent Leader |

Creating strong work relationships, embracing change, boosting morale and helping others to achieve is what great leaders do. Being able to apply emotional intelligence to moments of stress, conflict resolution and deploying empathy are just some of the techniques that allow leaders to succeed.

Of course, leadership can come in many different forms. In particular, well established teams and individuals can help their managers achieve what they need to, by managing upwards.

This is common for newly established leaders who may lack industry knowledge and experience, or are new to the business and require time to understand processes and organisational culture.

When a leader needs to build emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is an achievable skill. Luckily it's something we can all learn and practice, we just need to understand how it manifests itself. Feedback which includes things such as “stuck in their own bubble” or “low on understanding the team's requirements” are just some of the examples you may hear.

According to emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence (EI or EQ [emotional quotient]) is made up of four distinct but complementary components:

  • Self Awareness: recognition of one’s own emotions

Emotionally intelligent individuals don’t let their emotions overrun their decision making.

  • Social Awareness/Empathy: recognition of others’ emotions

Understanding someone else’s state of feelings and communicating your understanding.

  • Self Management: ability to manage one’s emotions

Being able to regulate one’s emotions whilst remaining calm and positive in stressful situations.

  • Social Skills: an ability to influence and manage others’ emotions

Nurturing your team’s emotions to foster positive behaviour and outcomes.

This learned behaviour takes time, and self-awareness of your management skills is a key part of learning these EQ traits. By performing regular self-assessments and asking for 360 degree feedback, you can see where you may be lacking and address these areas.

Book recommendations for emotional intelligence building

Approaching a manager or boss with suggestions to build emotional intelligence can of course be an awkward scenario. The last thing you want to do is make that employee feel like they're underachieving or not very good at their job.

Managing upwards requires deploying your own EQ in this scenario. Be empathetic to the situation; how long has the manager had? How much experience in this field have they got? Are they working with some personal issues you may not be aware of?

Being informal and passing over information could be a good starting place. Mention that you are “reading a great book on emotional intelligence” and provide them with that source of information if prompted. Titles include;

  • Corporate Emotional Intelligence by Gareth Chick
  • Empath by John Fear
  • Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman
  • Emotional Intelligence for Leaders by Edoardo Binda Zane

Overcoming a culture of fear

Emotional Intelligence is one of the most important soft skills a manager and leader can have. Being able to recognise that their behaviour can influence a team and success of the organisation is business critical.

Low emotional intelligence can lead to a negative organisational culture, and create internal conflict between team members and the operational structure. Therefore, it is important to hire a leader that can develop and grow and show their EI in the business.

What is also important is that there is an open culture for employees to help their leaders grow into the role.

It can be scary to point out to your manager that they could be doing a better job in this area, so it's important to recognise your own EI and deploy this when managing upwards.

Knowing when to speak up, supporting your team and leader with your knowledge and making the experience non-confrontational when managing upwards is the best way to start the process. Work with your manager to establish good relationships and best practices so that you can help point them in the right direction if you feel that they're not deploying enough emotional intelligence.

With everything that's happened in the last 12 months, businesses face a testing time. From reduced capacity of work to a mental health crisis for many working remotely. An emotionally intelligent leader can help pick a team up and drive them to new goals whilst also empathising with the situation. In 2021, we will need more emotional intelligence from our leaders to help us re-establish new ways of working and getting back to business and personal success.