there are many ways for leaders to boost their EQ. But all require a capacity and willingness to learn
Emotional intelligence is a vital leadership skill in modern workplaces. Although the term is well-known, its definition has significantly evolved over time.
Do you know how emotional intelligence has evolved and its importance in today’s work environment.
The concept of emotional intelligence has undergone significant evolution since its inception in the 1960s. Initially, people perceived it merely as a set of soft skills, and only a few individuals recognized its significance. However, over the years, emotional intelligence has emerged as an indispensable trait for effective leadership, and it has become a central element of various leadership training programs. In the early days, emotional intelligence was often overlooked and considered secondary to technical skills or IQ. People believed that success in professional settings primarily relied on one’s intellect and expertise in their respective fields. Emotional intelligence, with its focus on understanding and managing emotions, was often brushed aside as a secondary aspect of personal development. Nevertheless, as time went on and the complexities of modern workplaces became more apparent, the importance of emotional intelligence began to surface. It became clear that technical skills alone were insufficient for leaders to excel in their roles. Leaders needed to possess the ability to navigate through challenges, inspire and motivate their teams, and build relationships based on trust and empathy. As the awareness regarding the significance of emotional intelligence grew, organizations started integrating it into their leadership development programs. Today, it is widely recognized that leaders with high emotional intelligence are more likely to succeed in their roles and positively impact the overall organizational culture. Moreover, the evolution of emotional intelligence has led to a deeper understanding of its components. Initially, emotional intelligence was primarily associated with self-awareness and empathy. However, as research and studies progressed, the concept expanded to include other aspects such as self-regulation, social skills, and motivation. Self-regulation refers to the ability to manage one’s emotions effectively. Leaders with strong self-regulation skills can remain calm, composed, and objective even in high-pressure situations. They can control impulsive reactions and make rational decisions, which is crucial for effective leadership. Social skills encompass a range of abilities, including communication, collaboration, and conflict resolution. Leaders who possess strong social skills can build and maintain relationships, foster team cohesion, and create a positive work environment. These skills are invaluable in today’s interconnected and collaborative workplaces. Motivation, another essential component of emotional intelligence, involves harnessing one’s own emotions to drive and inspire oneself towards achieving goals. Leaders with high motivation tend to be resilient, optimistic, and persistent, which enables them to overcome obstacles and motivate others to do the same. As emotional intelligence continues to evolve, it is becoming increasingly recognized as a vital trait not only for leaders but for individuals at all levels of an organization. Its impact extends beyond the workplace and influences various aspects of life, including personal relationships and overall well-being. In conclusion, the concept of emotional intelligence has come a long way since its early days. From being perceived as a mere set of soft skills, it has now become an essential requirement for effective leadership. The understanding of emotional intelligence has expanded, incorporating various components such as self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, and motivation. As organizations continue to prioritize emotional intelligence in their leadership development efforts, the significance of this trait will continue to grow, shaping the future of leadership and interpersonal relationships.
For years people were promoted on technical ability or because they were good at the job they were doing. For many organizations, that is still the case today. The reality is not everyone wants to be or should be in a leadership/management role. Some individuals simply won’t have the capabilities, skillsets or even the desire to be successful as a leader of others.
Smart organizations are now taking a closer look at providing all kinds of career paths. The more you can offer that choice, the more people you will have in leadership who want to be there—and more importantly, who have the skills to be there.
The significance of emotional intelligence
I find it fascinating how emotional intelligence tends to decrease when stress levels rise, precisely when it is most needed. As stress increases, individuals become less mindful of their impact on others and increasingly self-centered. This undoubtedly affects our ability to collaborate in work environments.
There are so many things going on for leaders in the current work environment—remote or hybrid work, diversity, equity and inclusion, tight labour markets and burnout, to name a few. COVID especially has shown us that the social side of connecting with people is incredibly important. The human side of business has become extremely challenging. All the studies are showing us that anxiety levels in the workplace are the highest ever seen.
More than ever, we need leaders who can connect to individuals, have the capacity and willingness to learn, and can adjust their style to what their teams need. It’s a reflection of the times we live in.
What is emotional intelligence? It can be defined by four key aspects: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness (including empathy), and motivation.
Knowing yourself is an essential part of relationship building. An effective leader understands their own strengths and weaknesses, and the effect they can have on others.
In terms of self-management, emotionally intelligent individuals can exert self-control even when triggered and can manage their reactions to make sure an interaction is a positive experience.
Social awareness/empathy is not about being nice to people. It’s about understanding where they are coming from and knowing how they got to the opinions they have. That can be challenging within the diverse workforce we have today, where people come from all kinds of backgrounds and experiences.
Motivation is now becoming its own science and is a key piece of how you work. We used to think motivation was innate, but a lot of it can be developed. We have extrinsic motivation in our lives, like a paycheque, vacations, work environments, etc. But there are also intrinsic motivations—the internal drive we have in some form that links to our values and priorities and drives our behaviours. Intrinsic motivation is a powerful driver for all of us.
How to assess a person’s emotional intelligence?
Organizations are using many different assessments to assess individuals’ emotional intelligence, from psychometric assessments to online programs. Many companies use them when looking at candidates for specific roles. None are perfect, nor are they failproof.
There are individuals within firms who are capable of faking emotional intelligence to get a job or promotion. But there are indicators to watch out for, such as inconsistency in their experience. For example, a person may be doing an amazing job with one group and the opposite with another. They could be catering to certain audiences and not caring about another. They may be good at managing up but present a different picture when they are talking to the team. Or they may not be open to feedback on their development.
If a person is only about prestige, title, salary—they might not be interested in the well-being of your team. But if a person finds meaning in their work, creates a positive work environment and helps others, it can make a big difference for the entire organization.
How to develop skills in that area?
People used to think that people either had emotional intelligence or not. With the progress in neuroscience, we now know emotional intelligence can actually be learned. There are many ways to do it.
There are two key elements for learning emotional intelligence. You must be willing to do it, and you must want to do it.
Second, you have to be able to experience it and practise it through experiential learning. That means having conversations, seeing what works and what doesn’t, and learning through trial and error.
How do you determine if you have achieved your emotional intelligence goals?
Emotional intelligence is an ongoing process. It cannot be simply completed, particularly in the current times when individuals are returning to work with diverse values, priorities, and aspirations.
Emotional intelligence will stick if you keep practising it. When you don’t have anyone holding you accountable, it’s easy to revert to previous habits. A good practice is to take refresher courses and ensure you get regular feedback. It’s important to continue.
One interesting observation is that Gen Z is probably the most emotionally intelligent generation we have. As such, they’re expecting their manager to be the same. They are setting a pretty high bar when it comes to expectations of their leaders.