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What distinguishes great leaders from average ones? It’s a question we constantly are researching here at Y Scouts.
Recently our research came across the work of Daniel Goleman, an emotional intelligence leadership researcher who analyzed the characteristics of executives at nearly 200 companies. What he discovered was a factor he called, Emotional Intelligence, also known as EQ, which was twice as valuable as factors like “IQ” and “Technical Ability” in driving business performance.
At the most senior levels, Emotional Intelligence accounted for a whopping 90% for the difference between the best leaders and the rest.
But what exactly is Emotional Intelligence Leadership?
According to Goleman, Emotional Intelligence Leadership is made up of five skills and competencies: Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Motivation, Empathy, and Social Skill.
Let’s examine each.
Self-Awareness is understanding one’s own emotions and their effect on others. Self-aware leaders are confident and candid. They can realistically assess and talk about their strengths and weaknesses, often with a self-deprecating sense of humor.
Self-Regulation is the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses. Essentially, to think before acting. Effective self regulators tend to be trustworthy, comfortable with ambiguity, able to suspend judgement, and are open to change.
Motivation is a passion to work with energy and persistence for reasons beyond money or status. It means being driven, goal-oriented, optimistic, and committed to the organization.
Empathy is the ability to understand the emotional needs of others and to treat them accordingly. Empathetic leaders are good at developing and retaining talent, serving clients and customers, and managing cross cultural sensitivities.
Social skill is proficiency, managing relationships, developing networks, building rapport, and finding common ground. It makes leaders more persuasive and helps them create change.
According to research we all can increase our level of Emotional Intelligence with training that activates the brain’s limbic system, which governs our feelings and impulses. This works best in three steps: Incentive, Extended Practice, and Feedback.
Because all the EQ components are interconnected, you’ll find that improving in one area can help you do better in the others too.
Consider an executive whose colleagues say they are low on empathy because they don’t listen well. They check their phone in meetings, sometimes interrupts people, and often glosses over differing points of view.
When a boss points this out, the executive is surprised. In their view, they were just being efficient and direct. But the feedback incentivizes them to improve. Privately certain incidents are replayed and the executive thinks about how they could have acted differently. The executive also watches leaders who are good listeners and tries to mimick their behavior.
With continued guidance from their boss, the executive gradually becomes more empathetic to boost both the team’s morale and productivity.
There’s no question that leaders still need raw intelligence and good technical ability. But that’s a baseline. Great leaders must have or develop the five components of high emotional intelligence. Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skill.
Y Scouts is an executive search firm that helps nonprofits and social enterprises find exceptional leaders. Contact us if you are looking to find an exceptional leader. To be considered for exceptional leadership opportunities with our clients, please take the first step by joining the Y Scouts Leadership Community.