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Why should leaders increase their EQ?

Your success depends on intelligence, yes, but more the emotional kind that you might be neglecting.

6 min read



I recently gave a speech on the topic of emotional quotient (also called emotional intelligence) to an audience of over 1,000 people. After my presentation, I went to lunch along with the participants. Sitting at the table just behind me were two women who struck up a conversation about my presentation. I couldn’t help but eavesdrop a bit.

“Look! It’s him,” one woman said.

Her companion retorted sarcastically, “Do you really think all of that stuff he talked about even works?”

Her friend replied, “Well, if you speak to others the way you just answered me, then I think you need to pay attention to some of what he said!”

I laughed. This short exchange caused me to think of all the advantages available to people who invest time and effort in improving their emotional intelligence. 

The notion of emotional intelligence was identified in the late 20th century through the research conducted by Peter Salovey and John Mayer. Daniel Goleman built on this research and popularized the notion of EQ and its application to business.

In the past, it was thought that people with higher IQ would outperform people with lower IQ. Interestingly enough, research showed that people with higher IQ outperformed people with lower IQ only about 20% of the time, while people with lower IQ outperformed people with higher IQ 70% of the time. Researchers discovered that the critical difference was EQ, or emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize one’s emotions and the emotions of others and to manage those emotions to achieve more effective results. You could simply ask yourself, “In a moment of high or negative emotion, do I have my feelings or do they have me?”

Your emotional intelligence affects a variety of factors that contribute to individual and organizational success.

Here are 10 advantages of becoming more emotionally intelligent:

1. Self-awareness. People with high EQ understand themselves more deeply. They realize what is important to them and are committed to their own growth and development. They are open to feedback that will help them improve. They are also more aware and sensitive to the feelings of others.   

2. Communication. People with high emotional intelligence recognize the importance of communicating clearly and respectfully. They are able to stay calm in the face of highly emotional reactions of others. They know how to defuse defensiveness and to discover the underlying causes of a person’s emotional reactions. This allows them to influence others, to solve problems more effectively and to maintain the quality of their relationships.

3. Leadership. Emotionally intelligent leaders are able to control themselves, their emotions, thoughts and actions in a positive manner. This self-control helps them to behave consistently as they influence and connect with those that they manage. They build trust and work to maintain a positive culture and demeanor among members of their team.

4. Change. Implementing innovation and trying to adapt to needed change can become a source of frustration, anger or a lack of empathy. People who are emotionally intelligent can manage the stress and anxiety that often comes with change. Being able to manage a variety of tense situations helps to instill trust and confidence in others while helping them to more easily and confidently make progress in stressful times.

5. Teamwork. Working with the many viewpoints of other people is never easy. Being able to share ideas openly and honestly helps team members increase respect for each another while learning to value differing points of view. Leaders who are emotionally intelligent don’t control or manipulate the team dynamic to get what they want. Rather, they work together to contribute solutions which are best for the business and the goals they are trying to achieve.

6. Culture. Cultivating an environment where everyone respects and trusts one another creates a culture of support and mutual benefit. This type of positive environment is enjoyable and rewarding for those who work together. Such a collaborative culture increases retention and establishes good will among company members and teams. 

7. Compassion. Emotional intelligence promotes compassion and empathy for others. Knowing how to approach and connect with people aids understanding and builds respect. The ability to demonstrate empathy is key. Practicing empathy helps strengthen relationships, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase understanding in a time where meeting goals and deadlines is often valued more than people.  

8. Motivation. Emotionally intelligent people are frequently optimistic and not easily derailed when facing a challenge. They are hard workers with a growth mindset, and they persevere in the face of obstacles. They are driven by a sense of ambition to be successful, no matter what the situation, and their energy is infectious. They focus on purpose and process when things get tough rather than assigning blame to people and performance.

9. Productivity. Because people with high EQ know how to appropriately deal with conflict and differing values, they are not derailed by others’ negative or “hot” emotions. These leaders can manage themselves and know how to help others reclaim their rationality during heated exchanges. Their skills help them to solve problems and manage conflict more efficiently. Consequently, they are more productive in their work behavior and enable others to do the same.

10. Relationships. The quality of our relationships has a direct impact on the respect we have for one another, as well as the quality of results we are able to achieve. Knowing how to build and maintain effective relationships is one key to effectively working with others. People with high EQ do not take the negative emotional reactions of others personally. Instead, they seek to understand the source of others’ feelings and the values that are important to others. This allows them to effectively engage rather than avoid those who might react more emotionally in the workplace.

These are only a few of the advantages of becoming more emotionally intelligent. So what’s the good news about EQ? The skills for becoming more emotionally intelligent may be learned and used to become more effective as a person and as a leader.

Your increased EQ will not only help you manage your work and personal relationships, but will also improve your ability to lead and manage others more effectively.


John R. Stoker is the author of “Overcoming Fake Talk” and the president of DialogueWORKS, Inc. His organization helps clients and their teams improve leadership engagement in order to achieve superior results. He is an expert in the fields of leadership, change, dialogue, critical thinking, conflict resolution, and emotional intelligence, and has worked and spoken to such companies as Cox Communications, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell and AbbVie. Connect with him on FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter.

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