Getting along

Over the past few years, leadership has been changing. It has become more inclusive and “emotionally intelligent.” Emotionally intelligent leaders have the ability to inspire people to listen to them and to follow them. When people are willing to follow their leader by listening, improving communication and building teams, it helps the company to stay ahead of its competition — something that is extremely important in this economic climate.

Women are succeeding in male-dominated businesses because the qualities they bring are absolutely essential nowadays. One key area where women excel is relationship-building. Relationships are increasingly important for just about every company. The ability to help direct reports learn and grow not only increases productivity but also increases the likelihood that talented people will stay with the company. Forging strong relationships with external stakeholders — suppliers and customers — has also become a much-desired skill.

In his book, “Emotional Intelligence,” Daniel Goleman notes that women’s ability to read feelings from nonverbal cues helps them adjust better emotionally to different situations and ultimately become more successful than those who can’t adjust.

All of these qualities serve women well in business. For instance, women in leadership positions often ask for feedback from direct reports. Asking for feedback is actually pretty rare, but it accomplishes a lot. When direct reports feel valued and that their ideas and thoughts are important, they become more motivated and results-oriented.

What makes a woman stand out as an emotionally intelligent leader? Here are six standards that all emotionally intelligent leaders follow:

Emotionally intelligent leaders are team builders. Women often possess the ability to bring people together to achieve group goals. They understand how to manage the inevitable conflicts that arise in pursuit of these goals. They know how to encourage a diverse group of people to work in concert to achieve ambitious objectives. Men are often excellent individual performers, but they are not always adept at getting the same high-level performance out of a group.

Emotionally intelligent leaders use empathy to solve conflict. Rather than engaging in long, drawn-out debates with an unhappy employee, emotionally intelligent leaders use their ability to put themselves in another’s shoes. They listen patiently to concerns and try to get to the root of what is really bothering that individual. By giving people permission to express feelings and by helping them to communicate what is bothering them, women often resolve disputes more effectively than men.

Emotionally intelligent leaders create inclusion. They understand that bringing diversity of voices into the decision-making process, as well as creating bonds of trust and fellowship among employees, can only serve to advance the company. Leaders who seem to “get” what is important to people are usually more effective at accomplishing their goals.

Emotionally intelligent leaders build both external and internal relationships. Increasingly, companies are moving to a model where numerous alliances between various groups are the norm. There is a growing need for leaders who can forge alliances with competitors, community groups and companies in foreign countries. Women are good at building relationships, not only with people who think like they do but across many types of traditional boundaries.

Emotionally intelligent leaders trust their gut. The ability to walk into a room and sense tension, anger, warmth or whatever quality exists is an extremely important quality that women possess. Some women feel that they should not trust their gut instincts and should be more analytical like their male counterparts. Analysis is fine, but many situations these days are complex and ambiguous, and they don’t yield to analysis. Emotionally intelligent leaders listen to that little voice in their heads. And it usually serves them well.

Emotionally intelligent leaders can multitask. Women’s ability to multitask can benefit companies where people are myopically focused on the most crucial task. This skill may not seem like a big deal, but it often helps a woman stand out in an organization of men.

Emotional intelligence will serve you well in any business. Tap into your own to solve problems, seize opportunities and become a better leader.

Roxanne Rivera is the author of “There’s No Crying in Business: How Women Can Succeed in Male-Dominated Industries” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). She is also the president and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors of New Mexico and serves as New Mexico’s liaison to the National Associated Builders and Contractors in Washington, D.C.