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Executive Education

How to be an emotionally intelligent leader

In our latest Executive Horizons survey, 40% of respondents consider emotional intelligence to be a vital skill for effective leadership, giving it a 10 on a scale from 1 (unnecessary) to 10 (crucial). But what exactly is emotional intelligence (EQ) and what does it help leaders do better?
 

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DEFINING EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE


Emotional intelligence, in short, is the ability to recognize and manage your own emotions, and the emotions of others. We all know people who are emotionally intelligent. They’re usually the ones who float effortlessly to the top of corporate hierarchy and have an easier time managing relationships. They’re easy to be around because they know how to make others feel good about themselves.

Surprisingly, people with high emotional intelligence are not necessarily equipped with a high IQ. While IQ is stagnant for most of our lives, our emotional intelligence can improve with time. Like IQ, personality remains more or less consistent. “Personality is the result of hard-wired preferences, such as the inclination towards extroversion or introversion,” says TalentSmart, a leading provider in emotional intelligence tests, training and consulting.
 

HOW TO BE AN EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT LEADER


So what exactly are the main characteristics of the emotionally intelligent? According to career building platform Mind Tools, emotionally intelligent people possess self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. In other words, emotionally intelligent people are able to understand their strengths and weaknesses and know where to improve; they have a steady grasp on their emotions and don’t act impulsively; they are motivated and productive; they're able to put themselves in the shoes of others; and are good team players, apt at letting others shine.

People with strong emotional intelligence are humble about their accomplishments, and know how to highlight the achievements of others. They may also be more likely to apologize directly and are not afraid to admit their mistakes.

An example of a CEO who possesses strong emotional intelligence is Alan Mulally of Ford. According to an article in The Huffington Post, Mulally sends his employees handwritten notes, often praising their work. He is said to have great conversational skills and the ability to make you feel like you’re the only other one in the room when you’re talking to him.

85% of respondents in the Executive Horizons survey affirm that emotional intelligence helps leaders to manage and motivate others. Generally speaking, emotional intelligence enables leaders to enhance their problem-solving and decision-making skills, and manage conflict and change more effectively.

Research has proven that hiring employees based on emotional intelligence can have a significant impact on company performance. For instance, a large cosmetics company decided to hire candidates based on emotional intelligence rather than IQ. The people they hired based on emotional intelligence levels sold an average of $91,000 more than the employees hired using the previous recruitment system. They also showed lower rates of turnover.

Another leader known for his high emotional intelligence, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, affirms:

"You all know about IQ and EQ. Your IQs are all high enough to be very successful, but where people often fall short is on the EQ (emotional intelligence). It’s something you develop over time. A lot of management skills are EQ, because management is all about how people function.”