As a social entrepreneur, I often host workshops and courses for working professionals. During each of these events, I ask participants to form groups and come up with their top five traits of an ideal leader. The most common traits they come up with include: empathetic, compassionate, inspirational, effective communicator and confident. Interestingly, the common traits most people attribute to the ‘ideal leader’ are all elements of emotional intelligence.
As an educator and training professional, I often wonder whether empathy and compassion can be taught – and if so, how we can teach our learners to become more confident in their skills as they move forward in their careers.
For young professionals, cultivating emotional resiliency is often overlooked in favour of hard skills. John Austin, Executive Director of Student Affairs at Ryerson University, says that if more people understood the concept of emotional intelligence, they would also recognize its importance. He says that being emotionally intelligent is just as essential to career success as professional and technical skills.
Our emotional intelligence has an impact on how we act, react, and interact in any given situation. How we process our emotions shapes how we perceive and express ourselves to others. It also impacts our relationships, the decisions that we make, and how well we are able to cope with stress. Being emotionally intelligent is about using our emotions in the most effective way on a daily basis.
“Humanity is required in our professional lives,” says Austin. “Those essential skills – things like resilience, self-awareness, independence, empathy, and positive mindset – are critical.”
It’s necessary to create pathways that help build awareness. However, accessibility to programs for young professionals is limited. The online master class, Developing Emotional Intelligence for Professionals, was created to help young professionals develop their emotional resiliency and leadership capacity in a manner that is accessible, digestible, and encouraging of reflective practice. It provides them with an opportunity to learn about the 15 competencies of emotional intelligence, develop strategies to leverage their strengths, and manage areas they need to improve.
This type of development requires heightened self-awareness which relies on authentic reflection and deep introspection. “[At Ryerson University,] we attempt to create a culture where students can take time to reflect on what they’ve learned and how that learning has changed their perspective on the world,” says Austin, “When you can articulate how learning has contributed to your evolution as a person, you become a much more attractive candidate to employers.”
By engaging in reflection, we make meaning out of our experiences. We can process our surroundings more effectively, understand why we process it the way we do, and give ourselves the space to identify our emotional triggers. From understanding our own inner workings, we can also begin to understand others through a lens of empathy and compassion. This can benefit professionals at any stage in their career.
“It is not enough for us to encourage and expect emotional intelligence competency from our students and young professionals,” says Austin. ”We must make sure all members of our organizations and institutions are provided the education and resources necessary for building these skills.”
Commitment from organizations and institutions will provide professionals with the tools they need to navigate through their career and develop leadership potential. For young professionals, connecting these competencies to long-term success – both personally and professionally – is just as important.