The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Business

Emotional intelligence (EQ) has long been understood as the key to successful personal relationships. Recent studies have shown that it is just as important in becoming successful as a business leader, from middle management positions up to C-suite positions. EQ is the ability to recognize, understand and manage one’s own emotions, to empathize with the feelings of others and to act in ways that promote shared success. Self-awareness is often referred to as “intrapersonal intelligence,” while awareness of others’ emotions and feelings is often called “interpersonal intelligence.”

Understanding how emotional intelligence applies to business can help leaders maximize their potential by improving outcomes in their engagements with others, from subordinates to peers and superiors. Though professionals start out with varying levels of innate emotional intelligence, anyone can develop most of the skills — a worthwhile endeavor given the correlation between high EQ and effective business leadership.

What Is the Connection Between EQ and Leadership Effectiveness?

Effective decision-making and collaboration are nearly impossible without leaders who can manage their own emotional states, as well as those of others to make clear-headed, calculated decisions. Leaders with high EQ levels can manage egos and dispositions, diffuse tension, resolve conflicts and maintain everyone’s focus. Conversely, leaders with low EQ levels often see their initiatives derailed by failing to manage all emotions involved.

The evidence of a high correlation between EQ and success in leadership is mounting, and employers have taken notice. Consider these studies:

  • Indeed reports that teams with low EQ face difficulties in team collaboration, and individuals take passive or aggressive approaches to interactions and are unable to own mistakes.
  • In a study described in Forbes that involved over 2,600 hiring managers, 71% said they value high EQ over high IQ. 
  • A study published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior found a high correlation between EQ and higher salaries and increased job satisfaction.

These studies all suggest that leaders with a high EQ can foster a culture of high emotional intelligence, resulting in better collaboration and teamwork, easier conflict management and better individual accountability and acceptance of constructive criticism.

5 Crucial Skills Comprise Emotional Intelligence

In 1995, psychologist Daniel Goleman wrote Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. The book popularized emotional intelligence and provided insights into how the rational mind works with the emotional mind. According to Goleman, EQ consists of the following crucial skills:

  1. Self-Awareness: This is the ability to assess one’s feelings and moods and contributions to interpersonal engagements. A self-aware person can accept feedback and criticism and use them to adapt and impact others constructively. Self-aware people are not easily offended by tense meetings and can employ reason, even when the emotional temperature in the room rises.
  2. Self-Regulation: Emotional restraint, impulse control and thinking before speaking are hallmarks of self-regulation. The self-regulated person recognizes the possibility for disruptive impulses and can maintain focus and rationality.
  3. Internal Motivation: Being dependent on the esteem of others leads to the pursuit of ego-driven goals, such as impressive titles, accolades and high salaries. While these rewards come with worthy professional achievements, being internally motivated by a need for self-development rather than self-gratification signifies a leader with a higher EQ.
  4. Empathy: This aptitude enables individuals to genuinely understand the emotional experiences of others. Empathy is feeling what another person is feeling. Those with compassion are better respected and liked by others, promoting an atmosphere of collaboration rather than competition.
  5. People Skills: This is the ability to manage relationships, build bonds between oneself and others and develop mutual trust and respect between subordinates. The prior four skills enable one to find success in developing interpersonal relationships, as well as professional and social networks.

5 Ways to Practice Becoming More Emotionally Intelligent

Developing a high emotional intelligence (EQ) quotient is easier than developing a high intelligence quotient (IQ). Psychology Today offers an online test to evaluate several aspects of your EQ and suggest ways to improve it. With a detailed understanding of your current EQ, you can make the most of the tips below to improve upon any weaknesses. Take the test today, and again after you put these tips into practice:

  1. Active listening: Listen intently without thinking about your response.
  2. Pause before responding: Give yourself a moment after listening for undistorted reasoning and reflection. Allow for a natural change of mind as initial impulses fade.
  3. Practice regulating initial emotional impulses: Get comfortable with the idea that your mind will undergo a process as new stimuli and information become assimilated. Consider alternative motives and possibilities when something negative occurs.
  4. Accept and grow from constructive criticism: Great progress is difficult to make without feedback, so train your brain to appreciate well-intended constructive criticism and seek ways to improve from what you learn.
  5. Learn about body language: People express so much non-verbally. What you see can help you to understand what people are experiencing as well as what you hear.

One of the most rewarding aspects of growing as a leader is developing your emotional intelligence and discovering the positive impact you can have with your refined skills. Seasoned leaders often reflect fondly on their maturation processes in this regard, so there is no better time to start gaining those aptitudes.

Learn more about Southern Utah University’s MBA – General Business online program.

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