Why EQ is Importance for Leaders


Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer (1990), were the ones who coined the term emotional intelligence and defined it as "the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions.” In 1998, Daniel Goleman, in his bestseller defined emotional intelligence as “the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships. Emotional intelligence describes abilities distinct from, but complementary to, academic intelligence or the purely cognitive capacities measured by IQ.”  In his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it can Matter More Than IQ, he defined emotional intelligence as “abilities such as being able to motivate oneself and persist in the face of frustrations; to regulate one’s moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think; to empathize and to hope”.

Goleman defined four competencies as components of emotional intelligence include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Self-awareness refers to the capacity to understand one’s emotions, beliefs, strengths, and weaknesses, through reflection and introspection. It is the awareness and understanding of one’s personality and various dimensions of it, objectively and clearly. The competencies included in self-awareness are emotional awareness, accurate self-assessment, and self-confidence. Self-management is the capacity to manage one’s motives and regulate one’s behaviour effectively. Essential competencies included in self-management are emotional self-control, transparency, adaptability, achievement, initiative, and optimism. 

Social awareness refers to the capacity for identifying and understanding the feelings and emotions of those around, and understanding the reasons or causes behind the way the people feel and act. Social awareness competencies include empathy, organizational awareness, and service orientation. Relationship management refers to the ability to capacity for adeptness at inducing desirable responses in the people around. The competencies which are a part of relationship management include developing others, inspirational leadership, change catalyst, influence, conflict management, and teamwork and collaboration. 

According to Goleman, these four competencies of emotional intelligence help leaders to inspire and lead the organization to greatness. An effective leader is the one who is aware of not only his or her emotions, but also his or her strengths and weaknesses. This helps one to make an effort to improve oneself and also delegate work accordingly to others. Emotional intelligence also helps with self-regulation and in turn helps a leader to properly regulate his or her actions and emotions in tough situations and deal with the demands of the situation effectively. A leader who lacks self-regulation and self-management tends to react easily and faces difficulty in keeping his or her impulses under control. Emotionally intelligent leaders are also better able to handle stress in the workplace and do not let stress get the better of them. 

Being empathetic is an important competency which emotionally intelligent individuals possess. An empathetic leader is perceived to be more trustworthy by his team members, clients and employers because such a leader has the ability to himself or herself in the other person’s shoes and then take thoughtful and rational decisions which are good for the entire team as well as helps in reaching the organization’s goals. Emotionally intelligent leaders are resilient and optimistic, and see the positive side of the toughest situations. These leaders persist and persevere in difficult situations and take up challenges readily. They take criticism in a constructive manner and always strive to improve themselves and achieve their goals. They encourage creativity and risk-taking and are efficient in taking calculated risks and finding novel solutions to problems. 

Harms and Crede conducted a study which found that higher emotional intelligence was linked to transformational leadership style and productive behaviors displayed by leaders. There are various benefits for the organizations when they have emotionally intelligent leaders. Emotionally intelligent leaders facilitate better team engagement and let all team members voice their opinions and suggestions. An emotionally intelligent leader is one who recognizes the efforts of his or her subordinates and team members and, appreciates them in public while corrects them in private. This helps in building trust amongst the members or the employees and encourages stronger relationships and open communication. This helps improve the company culture the corporate wants to achieve. This mutual trust amongst the employees helps them perform better and in turn increase the productivity of the team. Any leader who lacks emotional intelligence has risks of being insensitive to his or her subordinates and team members and towards their efforts. This creates conflict and mistrust between employees becomes common. 

An emotionally intelligent leader is good at relationship management. This means that he or she has the ability to influence others in a positive manner and resolve conflicts effectively. Unresolved conflicts waste both time and energy of the workers and also drain the resources of the organizations. Leaders who are high on emotional intelligence help in creating more connected and motivated teams. 

A 2013 study by I. D. Subramanian and C. L. Yen, on emotional intelligence of leaders and organizational culture, found through evidence from IT companies in Malaysia that emotionally intelligent leaders have positive influence on all five dimensions of organizational culture, namely, job challenge, trust, communication, innovation, and social cohesion. The results of the study suggested that emotionally intelligent leaders are likely to contribute to the positive perceptions of organizational culture among the employees. Such emotionally intelligent leaders significantly influence their subordinates’ behaviour and outcomes such as their perception of the daily practices of the organization. 

A Final Word 

Emotionally intelligent leaders have the ability to inspire and motivate others and display high levels of personal integrity and morale. They help establish strong channels of communication in the workplace and help in building strong relationships. Dynamic and transformational leadership by these emotionally intelligent individuals helps the organization enhance productivity in turn leading to better business outcomes, and happier and committed employees. If a leader is not emotionally intelligent, it hinders the collaboration within an organization and there is an increase in conflicts amongst employees. 

In today’s world which revolves around technological advancement, artificial intelligence, robotics, and digitization, leaders and organizations need to adapt to new technologies and adhere to a new social ways of thinking and acting to improve corporate culture and business outcomes. It thus becomes essential for the organizations to hire employees who are emotionally intelligent because these individuals act as change catalyst in the ever-changing business world today and are able to take it the organization to great heights. It is also important for organizations to enhance the emotional intelligence of the employees, managers and leaders of the organization through training and intervention programs and incorporate elements of emotional intelligence in their day-to-day work environment. 

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