IQ alone doesn’t make you a good leader

Posted by Shivali Anand

In the last year, it goes without saying that the world has been turned upside down amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and the business sector is no exception. From the ways employees used to work to recruiting to leadership, much longstanding business advice has gone out the window.

This period of turmoil has illuminated our understanding of leadership in the workplace and has brought renewed emphasis to the concept of the emotional intelligence quotient, better known as EQ.  Long acknowledged for its association with success in individuals’ personal and professional lives, high-EQ individuals have become increasingly desirable to employers. By definition, EQ comprises a person’s ability to understand and manage their own emotions and to recognize and influence how others are feeling.

The concepts of EQ and IQ are sometimes juxtaposed to compare their importance, with IQ usually ranked first. But in terms of leadership, they are both necessary. While IQ has historically been viewed as the chief determinant of individual accomplishment, studies repeatedly find that IQ without EQ typically does not correlate with a business leader’s success and that in fact both are needed.

Some companies are introducing emotional intelligence tests during recruitment and implementing compulsory emotional intelligence training for staff, operating under the assumption that emotional intelligence is a necessary attribute for business managers and leaders. Researchers advise that it is essential not to marginalize the importance of either EI or IQ, as both have an important role in influencing success.

Emotional intelligence’s 4 components:

  1. Self-awareness: The ability to not only recognize your strong points and limitations, but also to distinguish your emotions and the consequence they have on you and your team. To draw out the best in others, a good leader needs to bring out the best in themselves first.
  2. Self-management: The ability to handle your emotions, especially in intense circumstances, and to keep a positive attitude despite challenges. Business leaders who lack self-management skills tend to react without thinking and have a tough time keeping their impulses in check. Remembering to breathe, take a pause and collect yourself can help you get a handle your emotions, resulting in a more appropriate and intentional response to adversity.
  3. Social awareness: Though it is important to comprehend and control your own emotions, you also need to recognize how to read a room. Social awareness illustrates your ability to be aware of others’ emotions and of the dynamics within your company. Business leaders with good social awareness tend to bring empathy into practice. They strive to understand their colleagues’ mindsets and perspectives to work effectively with peers.
  4. Relationship management: This comprises your ability to coach, influence and mentor others, as well as resolve conflicts successfully.  While most people prefer to stay away from conflict, good relationship management skills contribute to a calmer and faster resolution.

EQ is not static:

EQ is like physical fitness. Both are formed through intention, habit and practice. Over time this helps you become a better conversationalist, effectively manage stress and anxiety, neutralize conflicts, empathize with others and navigate life’s challenges, all of which are the hallmarks of high EQ. Recommendations for strengthening EQ are practicing mindfulness and breathing exercises, journaling to identify and process emotions, and practicing self-care.

Look for these 8 traits to spot a high EQ individual:

  • While working under pressure, high EQ individuals stay calm.
  • Listens more than they speak.
  • Leads by example.
  • Makes more considerate business decisions.
  • Takes criticism well; admits and learns from mistakes.
  • Keeps their emotions under control.
  • Knows how to resolve arguments fairly.
  • Has compassion for co-workers and acts accordingly.

How high EQ leaders can guide the growing shift to remote work

High EQ leaders will need to continue to exhibit strong empathy for their employees’ mental health, as the pandemic has brought high levels of anxiety and stress for everyone. And in the new world of remote work, which is likely to become permanent at least in hybrid form in many workplaces, face-to-face interactions are scarce. Even on platforms like Zoom, there are limited opportunities to infer emotions from one another’s body language and tone of voice. In the absence of such cues, leaders will need to leverage EQ to be more open about intentions and feelings. 

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