Cultivating Emotional Intelligence in Leadership: A Path to Staff Development

emotional intelligence leadership staff development Jun 26, 2024
Dr. Sonia Toledo interviewed by CSC Director Dr. Shileste Overton Morris

Recently, Dr Toledo had the privilege of being interviewed by Center for Schools and Communities Director Dr. Shileste Overton Morris. Dr. Toledo is a renowned expert in the field of emotional intelligence and its implications for educators, particularly in after-school programs serving low-income communities. This conversation shed light on the vital role of emotional intelligence in creating supportive and effective learning environments for both staff and students.

Dr Toledo’s insights stem from her extensive research, including her dissertation on the correlation between emotional intelligence and workplace stress among after-school supervisors in New York City. The findings were clear: individuals with high emotional intelligence perceive workplace stress as low, while those with low emotional intelligence experience it as high. This revelation underscores the profound impact of emotional intelligence on our ability to manage stress and navigate challenges effectively.

But what exactly is emotional intelligence, and why is it crucial in educational settings? Dr. Toledo explained that emotional intelligence encompasses self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. At its core, emotional intelligence empowers us to understand our own emotions, recognize their triggers, and respond to them in constructive ways.

One of the key aspects of emotional intelligence is self-awareness—knowing who we are emotionally and how our emotions influence our actions. Without this awareness, we risk reacting impulsively to our emotions, allowing them to dictate our behavior. Dr. Toledo emphasized the importance of pausing, reflecting, and choosing our responses thoughtfully, especially in stressful situations.

Moreover, emotional intelligence enables us to manage our emotions effectively, taking responsibility for our actions and their consequences. Dr. Toledo shared a personal anecdote about recognizing her own triggers and actively working to change her reactive behaviors—a powerful testament to the transformative potential of self-management.

Beyond self-awareness and self-management, emotional intelligence plays a pivotal role in social awareness and relationship management. As leaders, we must understand the impact of our emotions on those around us and cultivate positive, supportive relationships with our staff and students.

Dr. Toledo provided practical strategies for developing emotional intelligence in leadership, including fostering open communication, setting clear expectations, and providing support and guidance when needed. She highlighted the importance of addressing trauma triggers and creating emotionally safe environments where individuals feel valued and respected.

One of the most significant takeaways from this conversation is the recognition that emotional intelligence is not just a personal attribute—it's a skill that can be developed and cultivated over time. By prioritizing emotional intelligence in leadership development, we empower ourselves and our staff to navigate challenges with resilience, empathy, and integrity.

As Dr. Toledo aptly stated, "It starts with us." By embodying the principles of emotional intelligence in our own lives, we set a powerful example for our staff and students, creating a ripple effect that fosters growth, connection, and positive change.

In conclusion, cultivating emotional intelligence in leadership is not just beneficial—it's essential. As we strive to create nurturing, empowering learning environments, let us embrace the journey of self-discovery, growth, and transformation that emotional intelligence offers. Together, we can build a brighter future for ourselves and those we serve.

Watch the full interview below:



Dignity of Children® serves after-school programs nationally, providing exceptional child and youth development training programs.

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