What Is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

What Is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Saturday, September 1st, 2018

Fifty years ago a strong leader was typically perceived as a charismatic, tough individual with an autocratic leadership style. The words “emotional intelligence” are not likely to have appeared in the job description.

Today’s workforce does not respond as well to autocratic leadership. In order to lead effectively, today’s leaders need to have a strong dose of emotional intelligence and an ability to understand and empower their people.

5 Key Elements Of Emotional Intelligence

A leader’s ability to effectively influence people and build trust relates to the way they communicate and most of all it relies on their emotional intelligence or EQ. According to American psychologist Daniel Goleman, there are five key elements to defining emotional intelligence.

  1. Self-Awareness. Understanding of one’s own emotions and feelings.
  2. Self-Regulation/Management. The ability to control one’s emotions and impulses.
  3. The ability to inspire, influence and develop others.
  4. Reading and understanding others.
  5. Social Skills. Relationship Management.

Leadership And Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence emerged, as a concept, in the 1920’s and was further developed during the twentieth century. Its importance in the leadership context gained traction upon the publication in 1995 by Daniel Goleman of his book “Emotional Intelligence”.

Goleman (and other researchers) have conducted research across hundreds of organisations and thousands of executives, this research clearly demonstrates the importance of emotional intelligence to those in leadership positions.

When Goleman compared star performers with average performers in leadership roles, he found that nearly 90% of the difference in their profiles was attributable to emotional intelligence factors. Goleman, writing in the Harvard Business Review in the late 1990’s, described emotional intelligence as the “sine quo non” (indispensable aspect) of good leadership, with IQ and technical skills being seen as threshold capabilities.

The 4 Fundamental Building Blocks Of A Leader’s Power To Influence

There are many competencies that define leaders and their leadership skills. At the foundation of leadership is the ability to impact and influence staff and other stakeholders. In order to be able to lead significant business initiatives, leaders are required to build effective relationships and positively impact and influence people – good leaders are those others want to follow.

1. Competency In The Role

Competence is built over the years through IQ, study, experience and the development of a proven track record, competence alone is not sufficient to build others’ trust in your leadership.

2. The Ability To Build And Maintain Trust

Where a leader operates with transparency and integrity and consistently behaves and makes decisions in accordance with a set of clear personal values, others can trust that ‘what you see is what you get’.

3. The Ability To Build A Rapport

To remain influential at leadership level, it is important for the leader to build a retain rapport with those under his/her leadership. Sometimes rapport with a team member can be lost or frayed during times of stress or challenging personal exchanges. The leader needs to be aware that rapport needs to be rebuilt if he/she is to retain a high level of influence with that person.

4. The Ability To Empathise

Leaders need to have the emotional intelligence to tune into others, to read non-verbal cues, and to understand other perspectives. In essence, people first need to feel understood by a leader before they are fully prepared to be influenced by that person.

Why Is Emotional Intelligence Important?

Being a good operational or technical leader is not sufficient if a leader’s impact on other people leaves them feeling demotivated or disengaged.

The best test is not when the leader is having a great day, it’s when they are under pressure, stressed, challenged or frustrated. How they respond at these times comes down to how much they have developed their emotional intelligence or EQ.

The results of good emotional intelligence in a leader can be dramatic in terms of staff engagement and performance, the ability to influence stakeholders and on overall business performance.

It is well worth taking the time to consider the impact you are having on others, the quality of your relationships and whether there is an opportunity to further develop your emotional intelligence in order to have a more positive impact on people and performance.

The Benefits Of Developing Emotional Intelligence In Leadership

There are two main benefits of developing your emotional intelligence in a leadership role; more effective challenge management and better stress management. Or see below for 10 reasons when higher EQ will benefit you.

1. More Effective Challenge Management

Effective leaders use emotional intelligence to manage the challenges faced in the workplace. During the good times when work is flowing and results are good, the level of a leader’s emotional intelligence is not seriously tested. When things get tough, a leader’s emotional intelligence, or lack of it, will become very obvious and will have an impact beyond the leader to his or her people.

So many things can create challenge in a leadership role – a tough market, a challenging work relationship to contend with or a difficult personal situation. The way the leader responds to this challenge is critical. Some leaders will have the ability to remain calm and clear headed, despite the challenge. This is the type of leader most people prefer to work with. Others will succumb to the stress and may become anxious, angry or frustrated. If these emotions are not well managed, they will impact the behaviour of the leader, which in turn will have a negative impact on those around him or her.

2. Better Stress Management

Because the mood of a person in a leadership role impacts his or her followers, it is particularly important for leaders to develop the requisite emotional intelligence skills to manage negative emotion. The good news is that these skills can be learned. However, as with learning many new skills, it takes conscious effort and commitment.

One of the critical differences between leaders who manage stressful situations well and those who don’t is the ability to self-reflect. The emotionally intelligent leader will recognise that he or she is feeling the negative emotions and, instead of allowing these emotions to take control, will be able to reflect objectively on the situation. A leader with emotional intelligence will take time to reflect on what is happening, and how he or she is reacting to the situation and why. This leader will have the ability to step away from the emotion to look at the facts.

10 Possible Signs Higher Emotional Intelligence (EQ) For Leaders Will Benefit You

  1. You frequently find yourself feeling negative in different business interactions or meetings.
  2. You would like to feel more motivated and/or more self-confident.
  3. You sense (or have been told) that staff are sometimes wary of approaching you, unsure of the reaction they will get.
  4. In challenging situations you can struggle to remain calm.
  5. You don’t have effective tools to quickly manage your emotional state the way you would like to, to help you achieve your professional and commercial outcomes.
  6. There are a range of situations where your leadership influence is not as impactful as you want it to be. 
  7. The honesty, loyalty and respect you have in your work relationships is not ideal and you know this flows through to financial results. 
  8. You have had feedback that at times your impact on staff is not what you intended, and you are aware that these relationships can be better. 
  9. You are concerned that your relationship with board members, senior staff or other stakeholders are not ideal.
  10. You feel stressed, anxious or depressed about your work on a semi regular basis. This is impacting on your work life, your home life and/or your health.

Team-Wide Emotional Intelligence

Naturally, a group of individuals who all have high levels of emotional intelligence competence are likely to be a more effective team than one made up of individuals with low emotional intelligence competence. However, this does not necessarily result in a group that functions with a high emotional intelligence.

Goleman’s emotional intelligence model outlines the chief characteristics of an individual with high emotional intelligence however in an article in ‘Harvard Business Review’ (Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups, March 2001) Vanessa Druskat and Steven Wolff point out that a team must attend to yet another level of awareness and regulation.

A team must be mindful of the emotions of its members, its own group emotions or moods, and the emotions of other groups and individuals outside its boundaries.

3 Conditions Essential To A Team’s Effectiveness

  1. Trust and respect among members,
  2. A sense of group identity and purpose,
  3. And a sense of group efficacy.

When these conditions are absent, going through the motions of cooperating and participating is still possible. But the team will not be as effective as it could be because members will choose to hold back rather than fully engage.

To be most effective the team needs to create emotional intelligence norms (the attitudes and behaviours that eventually become habits) that support behaviours for building trust, group identity, and group efficacy. The benefit is complete engagement in, and ownership of, tasks and goals.

Can Emotional Intelligence Be Learnt?

Emotional intelligence can definitely be learnt, competency can be taught in any or all of the five key areas and developed and honed by leaders at any stage in their careers.

Training and guidance in growing emotional intelligence can be sought from reliable business coaching and mentoring experts, or leadership training professionals. Take a look below for our guide to developing emotional intelligence to get you started.

10 Step Process To Develop Emotional Intelligence

  1. Acknowledge that there may be an opportunity to further improve your leadership or the effectiveness of some critical work relationships.
  2. Prepare to be open to honest and balanced feedback from a selection of your staff, colleagues and senior.
  3. Consider a 360 degree feedback process to identify your key leadership strengths and development areas.
  4. Engage with a Coach or Mentor to develop improved emotional awareness, and new techniques for self-management and relationship-management.
  5. Research other material. There may be value in some supporting reading or video material.
  6. Create a leadership development plan to cover specifically what EQ areas you will focus on for further development, and how you will do that.
  7. Practice and take action in the EQ area in real work situations outlined in your plan. Coaching will support this practice.
  8. Invite informal or formal feedback to confirm your progress.
  9. Go easy on yourself around new approaches and skills – these new approaches may take time become familiar.
  10. Celebrate your success….

Find out how leadership coaching may benefit you or your organisation, or return to the Stepshift Leadership Blog for more helpful leadership advice.

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