Emotional intelligence has become a hot topic over the last decade, gracing the covers of almost every major publication in business and psychology alike. It has long been understood that there was a “non-intellect” related component of intelligence. This has been studied since as early as the 1940’s – and this component has been directly tied to success for almost as long. Emotional intelligence is devoid of age restrictions, and can be high or low regardless of generation.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
As with many trending topics in business, we tend to discuss them without really defining them. Emotional intelligence (EQ or EI) is a term created by two researchers – Peter Salavoy and John Mayer – and popularized by Dan Goleman in his 1996 book of the same name. We define EI as the ability to “recognize, understand and manage our own emotions, as well as recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others” according to the Institute for Health and Human Potential.
What does that mean to us? That means that an emotionally intelligent individual displays not only intellect, but the ability to identify the emotions of others while managing theirs. Remember my article on The 5 Characteristics of Bosses We Love to Hate? It provides some prime examples of individuals that are missing at least one component of emotional intelligence.
One thing is for sure: emotional intelligence predicts success. This debunks many of the theories that individuals with high IQs will be the most successful in the workforce. Many highly intelligent individuals are lacking some of these necessary traits. Let’s explore them some more.
Traits Necessary for Succes
1. Self-Awareness – this involves understanding one’s own emotions and their effect on both yourself and others. Self-aware leaders are confident and transparent with their emotions. They can communicate strengths and weaknesses with others in a very realistic manner, often with a sense of humor. The self-aware person does not have an elevated sense of self – he or she realizes that everyone around them possesses merits.
2. Self-Regulation – this is the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses – or think before acting. Self-regulated individuals are predominantly trustworthy, comfortable with ambiguity or constant change, and accepting. This doesn’t mean that the person never passes judgment or loses his or her temper. We are all human! For the most part, however, this person is highly adaptable, and can handle some last-minute detours or priority shifts with ease.
3. Motivation – this is the passion to work with energy and persistence for reasons that go beyond money and status or title. This is someone who is driven and goal-oriented, with a desire to remain committed to a cause or organization. You’ve heard people say they “enjoy what they are doing so much, it doesn’t feel like work”. That is true motivation.
4. Empathy – empathy is the ability to understand the emotions and needs of others, and treat them accordingly. Empathetic leaders are effective at developing and retaining talent because they understand what their team needs and are sensitive to their individual situations. They are typically successful at serving customers for the same reasons. In the workplace, individuals have unique situations, and it not always a one-size-fits-all solution. An empathetic individual understands that, and will modify a process to create a successful outcome for everyone involved.
5. Social Skills – this skill almost goes without saying. An individual with solid social skills is proficient at managing relationships, building networks, and developing with rapport – whether it is with coworkers or clients. These individuals are quick to find common ground. Once the relationship is established, a socially skilled leader can be persuasive and create the change that is necessary for success. Socially skilled doesn’t necessarily mean extroverted – this is a skill that can be possessed by an emotionally intelligent introvert as well.
Can Emotional Intelligence Be Developed?
While some people are born with what seems like a natural talent for emotional intelligence, it can be learned. Developing emotional intelligence skills involves identifying areas that need to be improved, and making a conscious effort to alter the behavior or natural reaction. The first step is finding out where you rank. You can take an emotional intelligence quiz here. The initial results are free, but you are also able to order the paid report if you wish. Many companies utilize full 360 assessments of their leaders, which encompass emotional intelligence, as well as developmental and training needs. You can find a more comprehensive assessment, such as the one PRADCO offers here.
Emotional intelligence is a critical skill set for leadership success. Whether a person’s role is customer-facing, or dealing with difficult technical or financial projects, those exhibiting high levels of emotional intelligence tend to have more success, both in the course of their individual role, and as a productive leader and team member. I discussed the 5 Qualities of Millennials in Leadership, and many of the components outlined are directly related to emotional intelligence.
What other traits do you feel are necessary for success? I’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to comment below or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Natalie Lemons
Natalie Lemons is the founder and President of Resilience Group, LLC, author of The Resilient Recruiter, and Co-Founder of Need a New Gig. She specializes in the area of Executive Search and Career Coaching and services a diverse group of national and international companies, focusing on mid to upper-level management searches in a variety of industries. For more articles like this, follow her blog. Resilient Recruiter is an Amazon Associate.
Want to Improve Your Interview Skills?
Our FREE Behavioral Interview Guide contains over 24 pages of specific questions to ask, categorized by the skill you are probing for. Download your guide today!