Emotional intelligence (EQ) is commonly defined as the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others. More often than not, emotional intelligence is referred to, studied, analyzed, and talked about in the context of leadership or becoming the best one can be. That’s why we at SGEi study, research, and facilitate fruitful conversations and interactive learning experiences on all four key elements of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.
As with most things in life, there are usually two sides to every coin. So, there’s good news and bad news about emotional intelligence. We’ll share both in this post, but don’t worry—the good news is one of the most encouraging things for any leader at any level who wants to improve and become their very best.
The Bad News
In short, the bad news for leaders lacking emotional intelligence is that it comes at a cost.
- When leaders lack awareness of how their approach, tone, and style impact their team and those around them, they lose credibility with the very people they’re setting out to lead.
- When leaders don’t understand how to manage their own thoughts and emotions, they run the risk of spiraling into a negative rut, which turns into a negative season, and before they know it, they become a negative person.
- When leaders lack social awareness or the ability to empathize with others, they run the risk of rubbing people the wrong way with their style, timing, or delivery of their message.
- When leaders aren’t aware of their own tendencies, and when they lack awareness of others’ feelings, they rarely build the levels of trust necessary to foster meaningful and productive relationships with those they lead.
It’s nearly impossible to become a great leader without the ability to connect with people. Connection happens when we, first and foremost, understand ourselves, which allows us to open up to the idea of accepting others for who they are. When people realize their leader knows them, understands them, and appreciates them, they begin doing more, giving more, and ultimately delivering more for the organization.
When leaders don’t understand how their own emotions and tendencies limit their own capabilities and that of their team, personal connections and thriving relationships are few and far between. Without relationships, it becomes increasingly difficult to sustain the desired business results.
That’s the bad news.
The Good News
There’s hope for every single human being who strives to become a leader of other human beings. Though all humans are different and unique, we do have one thing in common: we’re human beings—that means all of our brains are wired the same way.
The best news about EQ is that research tells us emotional intelligence skills can be learned and improved over time.
Whereas IQ is set—it is what it is and extremely difficult to change from the time we are six and seven years old all the way through adulthood—EQ can be improved over time. Neuroplasticity should be every leader’s favorite science project, as the term refers to the human brain’s ability to change and adapt with experience over time.
What does this mean for EQ? It means that with intentional thought and practice, all leaders can grow in each of the four key areas of emotional intelligence.
- With proper feedback, personality tests, and strengths assessments, leaders begin to understand more about themselves and how they impact others, for better or worse.
- With mindfulness techniques, deep breathing, and purposely shifting to a state of gratefulness for just a few minutes per day, you and I can literally reshape and rewire the circuitry in our brains so that we lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol.
- With each reshaping and rewiring of our brains, we not only experience less stress but also begin to feel more empathy and compassion for others.
- Studies show that coaching programs focused on EQ principles improve interpersonal skills both at work and in relationships outside of work, which leads to overall improvements in mental and physical health as well as levels of happiness and career success.
Bringing It All Together
Every leader, at any level, in any industry, is capable of improving their emotional intelligence, which in turn will help them become better leaders over time. The only question, then, comes down to whether one chooses to invest the time learning today to help them become the best they can be tomorrow.
Here are some tips to improve your EQ one day, one conversation, and one situation at a time:
1. Self-awareness: Invest in personality tests, strengths assessments, and/or 360-degree feedback surveys to learn more about yourself, your emotional tendencies, and your strengths.
2. Self-management: When life at work or at home gets stressful, force yourself to take a walk outside for ten minutes, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth for thirty seconds at a time, and think about ten things you’re most grateful for in this world. Stress levels will go down, and your gratefulness, health, and happiness will go right back up where you want it and where your organization needs it.
3. Social awareness: Simply listen and observe others in their element as they carry out their roles within your organization. Force yourself to think about how they feel about their life at work and even in their personal life. Put yourself in their shoes and let yourself feel what they must be feeling. This exercise will help you improve your ability to be empathetic. The more you understand about others, the better you’ll be at leading them to success.
4. Relationship management: Practice varying styles of leadership to match certain circumstances and situations. Sometimes you’ll need to inspire, and other times you’ll need to coach. Occasionally, you’ll need to ask for advice, counsel, and recommendations from others; yet other times, you’ll need to set the pace with more command of your own.
The bad news is that a lack of EQ can limit your career growth as well as your ability to enjoy a happy life.
The good news is that improving your EQ over time will transform your life and work into a purposeful, meaningful journey you never thought possible.