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Why emotional intelligence matters in leadership

In successful leadership, there’s a hidden gem that often goes unnoticed: emotional intelligence (or EQ). It’s not about your IQ or the number of degrees you hold; it’s about your ability to understand, manage, and influence both your own emotions and those of other individuals. People are often surprised to hear that EQ is actually a more accurate predictor of success than IQ in many areas of life from your health to personal relationships, decision-making, and of course, your performance at work. When it comes to leadership, EQ is particularly important; if you can’t manage yourself effectively then how can you manage others?

What is EQ?

Emotional intelligence can mean a few things; however, it broadly splits into personal and social aspects of emotion awareness and management. We can break this down a bit to understand the different aspects of EQ, specifically when applied to the workplace. Professors Victor Dulewicz and Malcolm Higgs created a model of emotional intelligence, splitting the trait into 7 different and measurable aspects:

Self-awareness involves recognising and managing your own emotions and having the confidence to handle these appropriately in professional settings. Emotional resilience specifically relates to how calm you can remain under pressure and how focused you can remain on your goals despite setbacks. Motivation is about having the drive and energy to get results and how you maintain these in the face of setbacks and rejection. Interpersonal sensitivity involves being aware of what others need and think, actively listening, and taking it on board. Influence is your knack for persuading people by understanding their point of view and using this to make a strong case for change. Intuitiveness is about making decisions, even when you don't have all the facts, by relying on both logic and gut feeling. Lastly, conscientiousness means sticking to your chosen path, practicing what you preach, and solving tough business problems with ethics in mind. Altogether, strong performance in each of these areas equates to high emotional intelligence and the added benefits that come with this.

Why are these traits important?

Leaders with a high EQ possess a unique set of skills that can make a huge difference, both within leadership teams and throughout the entire company. Leaders setting a good example create a ripple effect:

  • Stress management: Managerial positions often involve high-pressure situations and those with higher EQs can handle this with grace. They stay composed during challenging moments, which not only boosts their own confidence but also inspires confidence in their team.

  • Decision-making: A vital part of leadership is making crucial decisions. Emotionally intelligent managers are skilled at making informed decisions, ensuring the best outcome for their team and organisation.

  • Prioritising: For teams overwhelmed with a high workload, prioritising tasks can be a daunting challenge. But for leaders with a high EQ, this is a more manageable task. They often have a strong intuition for what needs immediate attention and what can wait, keeping the team right on track.

  • Morale boosting: This comes effortlessly to emotionally intelligent leaders. They understand the emotional needs of their team members and create a supportive and synergistic working environment. This has direct effects on employee wellbeing.

Emotional intelligence also has personal benefits, which will also have an indirect effect on leadership. Leaders with a strong EQ are rewarded with enhanced mental health, better physical health, and stronger personal relationships.

  • Improved mental health: A higher EQ helps you become more self-aware of emotions that arise in various situations, and in turn, become better at regulating them. You’re also able to pick up on, and manage, unpleasant emotions earlier before the problem develops. This means less stress, anxiety, and burnout.

  • Physical health: It’s also necessary for physical health. Stress is known to weaken your immune system, increasing your susceptibility to an array of illnesses. Depression, for example, is linked to heart disease. A higher EQ can help you manage your stress and recognise and manage any problems earlier on.

  • Relationships: Emotional intelligence directly impacts your relationships. Not knowing how to express your emotions can have a negative impact on those close to you. Equally, being able to pick up on cues from other people can strengthen relationships. In business, communicating well fosters strong relationships, which is linked to a range of positive outcomes for organisations and individuals.

What is your EQ?

Now that we know the importance of EQ, it’s a good idea to find out how you score. But don’t worry, unlike its closely related, more rigid cousin IQ, it is possible to develop your EQ with practice. But firstly, we must accurately measure how you perform in each of the facets so we can take it from there.

To do this, Professors Victor Dulewicz and Malcolm Higgs developed the Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire. This data-driven questionnaire was created based on a strong foundation of research. It specifically applies to EQ in the workplace, but also allows individuals to gain the personal benefit of a deeper understanding of their psychology. By providing insight into our strengths and weaknesses, we can identify specific areas to work on to improve our EQ.

At GFB we offer coaching sessions to interpret these scores by working one-on-one with individuals to help foster changes unique to them. There’s no one-size-fits all approach and so our coaching sessions enable quality time to develop the right approach for your organisation.

EQ has a profound impact on both the individual and organisational levels and is often what holds us back from greater success. If you would like to learn more about how you can incorporate this into your leadership team, then please get in touch.

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