Based on years of conducting 360-degree assessments of the leaders we coach, we have identified several recurring trends. On the plus side, the appraisals usually show that the leaders have strong technical abilities, strategic thinking skills, and business acumen. No problems there. However, these same leaders are frequently leaving trails of wreckage behind them because they are not handling emotions – their own or other people’s – properly. They lack emotional intelligence, otherwise referred to as “EQ.”
Travis Bradberry, author of the bestselling book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, describes EQ as “your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.” Without a strong EQ, leaders tend to be out of touch with their emotions and the profound impact those emotions have in their day-to-day interactions. They also have an inability to recognize the social or emotional cues in their environment, creating huge blind spots in interpersonal relationships.
Let’s consider what happens when a leader with a low EQ is feeling stressed because he was called on the carpet during a board meeting. Angry and upset, he goes from the board meeting to a team meeting to discuss a product issue. During that meeting, he lashes out at a team member who raises a question about the manufacturing process. The team member – in fact, the entire team – is appalled at the leader’s over-reaction and the inappropriate nature of his response. Not only does the product issue not get solved at the meeting, but the team now feels hesitant to bring up any questions or concerns in his presence.
You can see that emotional intelligence is not just some psychological mumbo-jumbo unrelated to the business environment. EQ is a key indicator and driver of performance and results. Put simply, great leaders have a high EQ. They have a firm handle on what is happening emotionally inside themselves and the people around them, and they use that awareness to drive positive outcomes.
Let’s take the same scenario, but with a leader who has a high EQ. This leader feels humiliated and angry from things said at a board meeting. But before entering his next meeting to discuss a product issue with his team, he takes a deep breath. He recognizes that he is in a state of high tension, but that the team he is about to meet with is not the source of his raw emotions and must not bear the brunt of them. He therefore calms himself down so that he can be fully present to his team and help them identify the root cause of the product issue and resolve the problem. When the team members leave the meeting, they feel that they have accomplished something important and are energized to keep moving forward.
If you are feeling uneasy right now because you suspect that your EQ is less than stellar, we have good news for you. Whereas your intelligence quotient, or IQ, is pretty much established by a certain age so that “it is what it is,” your EQ is malleable. It is a skill that can be developed, and therefore it is what you make of it.
Bradberry breaks EQ into four key skills that fall into two areas of competency. There are the skills of self-awareness and self-management, which comprise personal competence; and there are the skills of social awareness and relationship management, which equate to social competence. We will be taking a deeper dive into the four skills of EQ in upcoming blogs to help you build your personal and social competence.
Over the years, we have coached leaders to become effective, successful, and even transformational by helping them develop a high EQ. You can join the ranks of the “best of the best” by limbering up to strengthen your own emotional intelligence. The power to make a positive change is yours!