Emotional Intelligence & Leadership

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) & Leadership

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou.

Need for a Focus on Emotional Intelligence 

As a senior Human Resources (HR) leader, I am fascinated by the lack of attention to the critical role of EQ in leadership development programs. One meeting stands out as a case in point. Many years ago, I was leading a meeting of HR Business Partners (HRBPs). We were discussing employee relations issues. I had started at the company a month before and had been observing to learn about the organizational culture and practices.

Jill, one of the HRBP’s asked me what I thought of these weekly meetings? After some reflection, I said that they felt a lot like “ground hog day”. We had the same conversations and never addressed the root cause. I shared that the “unaware” behaviors of two senior leaders were driving significant issues in their divisions. Yet, we never discussed that crucial perspective and only worked to address the symptoms. I suggested that we explore formal coaching for both these leaders in concert with their managers.

What was the root cause of the issues for both these leaders? They lacked emotional intelligence. As a result, they were perpetuating a vicious cycle of dysfunction, poor morale and turnover in their areas. Without a doubt we all have blind spots, a lack of EQ happened to be the issue for Larry and Stacy. Both these leaders were technically adept, well intentioned and key to the organizational success. So, no one had ever given them or their managers this feedback.

What is EQ?

It is the ability to understand and manage personal emotions, as well as recognizing, influencing and assisting others manage theirs.

It’s more than “just” emotions
It affects every decision we make
It affects all our personal and professional relationships

So, why should we care about EQ? We should care because it affects:

Our performance at school or work
Our physical health
Our mental health
Our personal and professional relationships

Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI) model developed by Dr. Daniel Goleman and Dr. Richard Boyatzis explains the components of EQ.

Emotional Intelligence

Now that we have defined EQ, it’s critical importance on various aspects of our professional and personal lives, let’s review the behaviors of Larry and Stacy, from this lens.

Importance of Self-Awareness

Larry was a very intelligent manager, he had great insights about the business and was well regarded by leadership. The challenge was that Larry loved to hear himself talk and generally lacked awareness of how this behavior affected others. He had a hard time staying focused and jumped from topic to topic. This made it very hard for his direct reports to share their concerns/feedback and generally feel heard. It is likely that Larry was so taken by his intellect that he relied on it exclusively. It is possible that no one had ever given him feedback on how his behaviors bothered others.

Relationship Management Matters

The other senior leader, Stacy, was one of the hardest working managers. She took a lot of pride in what she did and was a workaholic. Given her excessive focus on work, she believed that “her way” was the right way and anyone with a different perspective did not measure up. She was condescending towards her direct reports and had one of the highest turnover rates in the organization. What Stacy did not realize is that her approach alienated rather than inspired her teams. Her lack of self-awareness kept her and everyone who interacted with her teams in turmoil.

It is very telling that we call EQ skills, soft skills. Many studies have shown that a leader’s ability to form connections, have self-awareness, manage relationships, have empathy, etc., are more important than the revered IQ.

How to Enhance Your Emotional Intelligence

If you want to become an inspiring leader and help your teams realize their highest potential, please note the suggestions below:

1. Ask your colleagues and friends to share honest feedback about your EQ skills.
2. Take a validated EQ assessment.
3. Work with a coach with expertise in this area.

I promise you these investments in yourself will be well worth it!

Contact me for a free consultation to further develop your emotional intelligence!