Recent research by a variety of authors has shown that what differentiates great leaders from average is not their IQ, technical skills, or even industry experience. The key factor is Emotional Intelligence (EQ) – the capacity for managing our own emotions and the emotions of others. In fact, going further, a study by the Center for Creative Leadership pinpointed the two key derailers of careers have nothing to do with how smart we are – again, it has to everything to do with EQ. Specifically, the:
- Inability to manage relationships
- Inability to manage change
What makes a great leader? This is a question we explore in our Emotional Intelligence training. While IQ and technical skills contribute something to the equation (we need certain levels of these qualities just to be in the game – we call these threshold competencies), it is clear that when it comes to inspiring people and getting them follow us and our vision, there are other ingredients required. Self-control and empathy – two key EQ qualities – are chief among them. A study was conducted comparing individuals who were promoted to President/CEO positions, with people who were passed over for the same positions. The results showed that the people who were promoted to the CEO position were seven times more likely to display high levels of self-control (the ability to manage difficult emotions and do what needs to be done even if it feels uncomfortable to do it) and three times more likely to display empathy than those executives who were passed over for the same job. Other skills – technical, IQ, etc. made little or no difference.
The foundation of EQ is self-awareness – the ability of an individual to know how their emotions are affecting their own behavior, and how those behaviors affect those around them. An example of how a lack of self-awareness can have a negative impact on a business would be an leader who is frustrated that an employee is not meeting deadlines. If the situation is handled unskillfully and the leader lets the frustration come across as anger, then the employee will likely be de-motivated further. Alternatively, if the leader is aware of their own frustration and can channel that frustration not as anger, but by skillfully airing their concern about deadlines not being met, then they are much more likely to inspire the change in behavior they seek.
High performing leaders know when emotions are “getting the best of them”. They honor those emotions but find productive ways to channel them. In our leadership training programs, we espouse that Emotional Intelligence is not about hiding emotions or pretending they don’t exist; it’s also not being ‘nice’ and getting people to like – EI is about being aware of and recognizing how our emotions are affecting us and then acting skillfully in response.