When we talk about intelligence, we often think in terms of knowledge, memory, and creativity. After all, our intelligence has been measured over the years in various academic and work settings, all to do with what we remember, what we know, and our ability to express it.
But there’s another aspect of intelligence out there that is equally important—emotional intelligence. And when it comes to emotional intelligence in the workplace, we as leaders would do well to understand this critical aspect of performance.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional Intelligence or Emotional Quotient (EQ) is a social intelligence with which we recognize and process emotions, ultimately allowing us to use emotions intelligently to guide decision making in ourselves and others.
Since the 1930s, psychologists and scientists have believed that success takes more than cognitive intelligence. But it wasn’t until an article in Imagination, Cognition, and Personality in 1990 that the term “emotional intelligence” caught on. Researchers Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer published their theories which were later expanded on and popularized by Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ.
An emotionally intelligent person exhibits four characteristics:
Self-awareness (The ability to recognize our emotions)
Self-management (The ability to control our emotions)
Social Awareness (The ability to recognize emotion in others)
Social Skills (The ability to use others’ emotions to drive behavior)
When we talk about EQ today, we often do so in the context of business and leadership. And for good reason. In 2020, the World Economic Forum reports that emotional intelligence is one of the top fifteen most critical skills for workers and leaders in today’s world.
Why Is Emotional Intelligence in the workplace Important?
Having a high EQ can lead to success. In fact, there are many benefits of emotional intelligence…
Increased Empathy—People who can easily recognize emotions in others will exhibit higher empathy and be able to interact with coworkers better.
Reduced Stress—A person with high EQ will better understand how to regulate their own emotions and often remains calm and collected in the face of stressful situations.
Reactions to Criticism—When receiving feedback, particularly constructive criticism, workers with high EQ will learn with an open mind and not become defensive and emotional.
Enhanced Social Skills—Recognizing emotional cues in others can drive our interactions with them, which in turn allows us to form and strengthen social and work relationships.
Better Communication—A person with strong EQ is highly self-aware and this can improve communication as they are able to clearly express their emotions and needs.
Do Leaders Need Emotional Intelligence?
When it comes to emotional intelligence in leadership, having strong EQ is even more important. While emotional intelligence starts with an awareness and regulation of ourselves, the other half of the picture is how we understand and handle emotions in others.
Leaders with high EQ will
Exhibit strong empathy in understanding others’ emotions.
Listen fully to workers without passing judgment on their feelings.
Have a strong commitment to helping others be the best they can be.
Understand how to utilize workers’ emotions to drive desired behaviors.
How Improve our Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional Intelligence is a skill and, as with any skill, it can be learned and enhanced through training and practice. All it requires is a desire to improve and the intention to apply the learning in the real world.
To start, we must cultivate a strong sense of self-awareness. We must reflect at the end of each day on what emotions we felt (particularly negative emotions) and how they led to each of our actions. Eventually, we can learn to catch hold of emotions as they occur and better choose how to respond, rather than letting emotions control our reaction.
Once we have mastered awareness and regulation of our own emotions, we can turn to recognizing and dealing with the emotions of others. We can practice this empathy by becoming better listeners and taking an active interest in others. By setting a good example with our own EQ and helping others through emotional issues, workers will learn to better manage themselves and communicate with others to increase positive outcomes, confidence and ability to lead others.
Enhancing emotional intelligence can only lead to good outcomes for your team and business.