Why Emotional Intelligence is Vital for Successful Leaders
Emotional intelligence (EQ) was named by LinkedIn as one of the Top 5 Soft Skills in 2020, defined in this study as “the ability to perceive, evaluate, and respond to your own emotions and the emotions of others.”
In recent years EQ has become increasingly recognised as a trait integral to excellent and desirable leadership. The stress and hardships inflicted by the Covid-19 crisis are also highlighting its importance, with leaders having to show more empathy for the unique struggles that employees are facing. Today, employees want to work in ‘human’ organisations where they are valued, and leaders’ behaviours play an influential role in the culture, values and employee experience.
For leaders, high EQ supports career advancement and leadership success. In the book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Daniel Goleman, a psychologist, argues that EQ accounts for “67% of the abilities necessary for superior leadership performance.”
Many scientific experts consider EQ as the result of factors both inherent and environmental, offering scope for leaders to develop and improve the constituent skills of EQ. Goleman defines these as self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, motivation, and empathy.
The decisions that leaders take reflect on their abilities to lead and therefore affect their progression and career trajectory. Empathy, one aspect of EQ, can help leaders to make better decisions, as it helps them to understand the likely implications and consequences of different choices, allowing them to weigh up different options and select the most promising one.
Improving EQ could also enhance leaders’ communication skills, which affects how they build relationships, motivate others, and drive productivity and performance. Using EQ can help leaders to anticipate the reactions of others, allowing them to communicate accordingly. For instance, in situations where the leader must deliver tough news, empathy can help them in expressing messages with tact and respect.
Leaders with high EQ can recognise their emotions and control their responses. This can be helpful when dealing with stressful situations, pressure, and uncertainty. As a leader, it is important to take measured actions and be capable of acting reasonably and rationally. If a leader lets their emotions get the better of them and does not possess the abilities to identify and check them, they could risk making bad decisions, eroding others’ trust, and damaging their reputation.
As leaders often receive less constructive feedback than more junior employees, it can be useful to seek out honest and candid feedback – from coaches, employees, or even friends and family. Indeed, some recommend that leaders can benefit from approaching people who know them well and asking for frank feedback on their emotional strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, while high EQ can propel leaders’ careers, low EQ can be highly damaging. Thus, developing EQ is not only desirable but essential for successful leaders.
- Emotional Intelligence Is Key to Outstanding Leadership, February 2018, SHRM.
- Leading by Feel, 2004, Harvard Business Review.
- Why Emotional Intelligence Is Indispensable For Leaders, October 2017, Forbes.
- The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in a Leader, September 2018, Medium.