Emotional intelligence, or emotional quotient (EQ), becomes more and more important the higher you climb in an organization – especially in developing your ready-next leaders. It has been estimated that as many as 80-90% of the competencies required for C-suite jobs are founded on EQ, or components of EQ. This is largely because at these high levels, you are very rarely working directly with your technical skills, but rather managing and leading people themselves. Emotional intelligence will allow your ready-next leaders to do this effectively.
Why Should We Care About EQ?
A growing body of research has shown us that nearly 70% of people are unable to handle stress or conflict in an appropriate manner, while only 36% can accurately identify emotions as they are experienced.
However, the opposite is true of high-performance leaders. They are skilled at managing both their emotions and their stress – over 90% of them, in fact.
EQ In Leadership Demonstrated from TV series Billions
In the second season of the hit show Billions, a character named Taylor Mason is introduced. In the show, Mason identifies as non-binary, which in this case means they prefer to be identified as “they,” not “he” or “she.” If you have not seen the show, I highly recommend giving it a try.
When they are introduced, Taylor Mason is joining a hedge fund with the recognition that the alpha-male culture of Wall Street will be an overwhelming challenge. Nonetheless, as the show progresses, Taylor takes charge through a series of roller-coaster-like predicaments, showing the audience their incredible EQ. Let’s take a look at just one example where Taylor Mason demonstrates the qualities of leadership that EQ embodies.
Wendy is a psychiatrist who acts as the hedge fund’s performance coach. She sits down for her first session with Taylor, asking “How can I help you?” Wendy is warm and welcoming, and you might expect Mason to recognize this as a safe space to discuss their problems. Instead, they use the opportunity to empathize with McPhee, a coworker, who has been underperforming. Taylor wants to know if there’s anything they can do to get him his momentum back.
In fact, Taylor starts out as an intern for McPhee, but thanks to the sort of EQ they demonstrated in the scene described above, they quickly advance to a management position. Soon, the CEO, Bobby Axelrod takes notice, and Taylor ends up working right alongside him. What organizations need are more ready next leaders like Taylor – someone who is not only looking to advance themselves, but everyone at the company, for the good of all.
The Foundation of EQ
Ask yourself: who’s the best boss you’ve ever had? What was it that they did or said that made them so great to work with? Chances are they were a great leader, and it’s even more likely that what you remember best is how they related to you, how they involved you, and how they worked with others.
EQ is a whole different way to be smart. It’s not IQ – technical problem-solving, analytical skills, that sort of thing – it’s the people skills, how you manage yourself, and how you manage the relationships around you.
Considerable research across the board, for jobs of all types and at all levels, has determined that EQ can be nearly two times more important than raw cognitive ability for predicting competency. And the higher you climb, the more important it becomes. The top leaders in the top leadership positions usually have competencies that set them apart, in a league of their own – and guess what? 80%, 90%, sometimes 100% of those competencies are related to EQ.
The Link Between Leadership Effectiveness & High EQ
The effectiveness of a leader can be a tricky thing to determine. It’s not as strictly quantifiable as something like “How much money do they make for their company?” Rather, the effectiveness of leadership is somehow subtler, more nuanced, and measured across multiple domains by multiple stakeholders. For instance, it would do an organization no good for a leader to make them a ton of money if no one at the company can stand him – they’d have no employees left by the end of the year. Effectiveness must be measured by bosses, peers, managers, employees, market performance, and many more, across many years. Only by scoring consistently positive through all of this can we start to call leadership effective.
Engagement, or care in one’s work, is another important aspect of leadership. Does your work matter to you? Studies show that unfortunately, nearly 70% of North Americans say no. And in that situation, you’re not likely to be using your competencies effectively. While this can sometimes be on the individual, it can also represent a failure or crisis of leadership – an effective leader would surely have found ways to get you engaged. Many modern approaches to leadership study in academic literature today are using subordinate engagement as a key measure of the effective leader.
Begin with Self-Awareness as the starting place.
You might be wondering, how exactly do you develop your ready-next leaders’ EQ so they are prepared to take on higher levels of responsibility?
Unlike IQ, research shows that EQ is malleable. Your ready-next leaders can improve their EQ, and the first key is in increasing their self-awareness. This is the foundation of emotional intelligence, because in order to understand their behavior and the behavior of others, they of course first must be genuinely aware of it. This can be a challenging road to climb, but it’s crucial for success in increasing and enhancing EQ. The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations can evaluate which EQ assessment tool is right for your ready-next leaders’ situations. Click the link below to learn more:
Ty Miller is a trainer, facilitator, and consultant. He teaches how to lead Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion culture changes, and how to support the development of high-potential, ready next leaders.