How important is emotional intelligence in leadership?

Leadership isn’t just about IQ or technical skill – in fact, these are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. When 58% of all success in jobs are accounted for by emotional intelligence, it’s a clear sign that emotional intelligence has a vital role in the workplace. It has also been discovered that people with a high degree of emotional intelligence make an average of $29,000 more per year than people with lower degrees of emotional intelligence.

What is ’emotional intelligence’?

In the 1990’s, psychologist Daniel Goleman coined five main components of emotional intelligence that affect leadership:

1. Self-Awareness
Self-aware leaders have a clear picture of their strengths and weaknesses. This skill also allows them to be aware of how they’re perceived by others. Having this knowledge, better equips them to respond in a way that delivers the results they need.

2. Self-Regulation
Self-regulation allows leaders to control their emotions when making decisions or responding to certain situations. Leaders with self-regulation rarely verbally attack others; make rash decisions or compromise core values.

3. Self-Motivation
Motivation is passion that goes beyond the material of money and status. This is about being fundamentally driven by a purpose deeper than something that might not last. Self-motivated leaders consistently work towards their goal with a high standard for the work they produce.

4. Empathy
Leaders lead people. Empathy is the ability to successfully manage a team of people by understanding their drivers and emotions. It’s through empathy, that a leader can help develop the people on their team, challenge them and give constructive feedback.

5. Social Skills
Social skills relate to conflict resolution, communication skills as well as forging strong relationships with others. Leaders with strong social skills are good at managing change and set an example to others with their behaviour.

Aside from these five core characteristics, there is also: charisma, confidence, the managing of relationships, and the regulating of one’s own expectations. These all fall under the banner of emotional intelligence. To be truly inspiring and memorable, a leader has to be able to display these characteristics.

How Jeff Bezos (Amazon) displays emotional intelligence

In 2015, Amazon found itself in the cross hairs of The New York Times, following the publishing of a lengthy critique about its rigorous employee standards and harsh working environment. It may have gone even further, if it wasn’t for the swift intervention of CEO Jeff Bezos.

Jeff Bezos was able to use the opportunity to turn the criticism around, by announcing changes within the company and directly addressing the concerns that had been raised. Rather than fighting the claims, he leaned in, and was able to deliver the changes that his employees and the public desired.

How Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google) display emotional intelligence

 One of the best examples of overall emotional intelligence comes from Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the two initial founders of Google. Now one of the largest organisations in the entire world, Google still reflects the atmosphere of a spunky start-up. Much of this has to do with their emotional intelligence. As a business grows, it’s often normal for the culture to dilute or change radically. It’s only through emotional intelligence – an understanding of the drivers of their employees, of the context of the business – that Google has been able to retain their playful company culture.

Well-known for their corporate code of conduct, “Don’t be evil” Google has developed an entrenched reputation as a well-meaning and forward-thinking corporate entity. The success behind their strategic initiatives also relates back to the emotional intelligence of their executive team and their ability to be ‘ahead of the curve’.

(Since the inception of Alphabet, Google’s motto has been replaced by “Do the right thing.”)

Do you possess emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence may very well be the line in the sand that separates a “boss” from a true leader. Through emotional intelligence, CEOs and entrepreneurs are able to inspire confidence and motivate others to follow in their footsteps. And, just like any other skill, it can be learned.

With over 21,000 members, The Executive Connection has turned the development of emotional intelligence into a science. Contact us to find out more.

 

Emotional intelligence and its role in strategic planning

Emotional intelligence
Strategic planning is planning to succeed. If you want to make success a reality for your business, it’s all down to how you implement the strategic initiatives. The true measure of a strategic plan’s strength is in how people engage with it and put it into practice.  Herein lies the biggest challenge of all and where I have seen so many leaders struggle.  It’s fact that’s led me to a certain maxim I live by in these cases: ‘the task is easy, it’s people who complicate things’.

You can never underestimate the ways people will complicate even the best laid plans, whether they mean to or not, which is why emotional intelligence (or EQ) is so important during the time of year when leaders are forming and implementing their strategies.

  1. You ignore the human factor at your absolute peril

As a coach, one of the queries I most get from other leaders is ‘how has my perfect plan gone so wrong?’. It’s often a case of simply not realising just how the human factors in an organisation can shape and evolve what people expected to happen in theory.

My favourite book on leadership explores this subject. The second chapter of Leadership on the Line by Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky notes that people – whether consciously or subconsciously – often resist change initiatives, which is why conversations around the importance of getting buy-in are so common.

  1. Understand how people resist change

The ways people can resist change within an organisation manifest in four different ways, so understanding what they are and how to detect them is essential when implementing a new strategy. The first three are:

  • Marginalisation
  • Diversion
  • Attacking

However, the one I feel is the most dangerous is referred to by Heifetz and Linksy as ‘the seduction of leadership’, where people give the appearance they’ve bought into the initiative and are happy to contribute but really couldn’t be more disconnected. Again, this can be subconscious behaviour, but unless you are sure you’ve got complete buy-in, your team could intentionally or unintentionally lead you down a blind alley and undermine what you’re trying to achieve.

  1. Don’t get stuck in one leadership style

Every leader has a particular style that most suits them, a default mode of operation that’s effective most of the time. Despite this, getting stuck in one style and not being able to adapt can reduce your ability to connect with all members in an organisation.

The leadership style that’s most effective during strategic planning is the one that best fits the team member you’re trying to influence. This is where emotional intelligence makes a difference, because if you’re trying to influence someone who’s an important gatekeeper, you have to understand their personality, their motivations and their context surrounding your goal.

Again, the most important element of all this is what they aren’t telling you. What’s beneath the surface that’s going to affect their motivations and potentially change the way they act with regard to upcoming changes?

  1. EQ tool for influencing change

Broadly speaking, the types of people you’ll be looking to influence will be split across four main groups. These aren’t hard and fast rules as such, but a quick and useful toolkit nonetheless that can help you decide how best to influence those on whom success of the strategic plan depends They are:

  • Results oriented – Their mantra will be ‘when do we start and get this done?’ – they’re the fast-paced, action-oriented doer in the organisation
  • Detail-focused – These people care about the ‘how‘ and want to make sure everything is covered and accounted for before moving forward
  • The big-picture strategist – They’re all about the ’why‘, and often think more about the higher level rather than getting stuck in the details.
  • The people-oriented person – Finally, these professionals are all about the “who”. They want to know how decisions might make them and the team feel.

It’s this level of awareness that can help you better apply emotional intelligence traits to your strategic planning process. Knowing your leadership style, and how that will resonate with those around you, is essential to keeping on top of the (very) human elements of this process.


BHelen-Wisemany: TEC Chair, CEO mentor and coach Helen Wiseman