Last week, we had our first women’s leadership networking event on a fabulous Wellington day with an amazing array of women from the private and public sector.
Our excuse for getting away from the office to network over a glass or two of wine was a discussion on emotional intelligence (or EQ as it’s often referred to) and its place in developing our leadership potential.
On the surface, EQ is “old hat” – it’s been about 20 years since the journalist Daniel Goleman first popularised the phrase.
You can find countless definitions for it, but really it comes down to the strengths, competencies and skills we have that we can’t put down to IQ e.g. empathy, self-reliance, self-confidence and relationship skills. It’s knowledge about our inner world – our thoughts and our feelings and understanding how they impact on ourselves and others in what we say and do. It’s recognising this in ourselves but also the same in others.
High EQ helps us remain calm during chaos, helps us hear what others have to say without feeling threatened, it helps us lead with integrity. It’s an answer to the question “Why would anyone want to follow you?”.
Don’t get me wrong – IQ is important. It will often get you the job in the first place, will get you your first set of promotions and continues to be necessary to do your job well throughout your career. The downside is that is peaks in your 20’s and other skills become increasingly important.
EQ, on the other hand, continues developing and doesn’t peak until your late 40s and it remains high throughout your 50s– usually the times when you are taking on senior people-leading roles, leading change and trying to engage your employees.
So what are we doing to develop our own EQ and that of our teams? The answer is probably not vey much. I think this is because EQ is still seen as a soft skill, something we’ll pick up by osmosis. We don’t focus on it despite clear indications from hard science that strong levels of empathy, emotional regulation and self-confidence impact directly on motivation and engagement.
But things are changing and the spotlight is being turned up on EQ. Increasing evidence from the converging fields of neuroscience, positive psychology and leadership research suggests that the brain is wired with social systems in mind. Taking the time to oil these systems leads to improved performance and that’s what “great” leaders do regularly. Ongoing research shows that great leaders have consistently higher EQ capability scores than most and these directly influence their performance and those of the people within their social systems.
And it’s back to the old chestnut of nature or nurture? Are we born with these traits or can they be developed?
Sure, some of them may have had a head start with nature but nurture plays a large part. There’s evidence that women might be better at empathy and relationship building whilst men score better in self-confidence and self-control, but overall there’s little difference in the EQ capabilities of great leaders of either sex. The real difference is between them and the rest of us who don’t focus on developing these crucial skills, who maybe haven’t seen the value in doing so. As we understand more about their importance, now’s the time to start a bit more nurturing.
The timing for this couldn’t be better – we’re seeing a shift in what we value in leadership from one of “command and control” to the authentic or mindful leader. There’s a shift from the age of the individual to the social age, where collaboration and team work is expected, and engagement scores are becoming the standard measure of work success. Building our ability to know ourselves and make connections with people authentically will help us manage these changes.
In the years since Goleman wrote ‘Emotional Intelligence’, there has been a steady stream of research into what competencies are most beneficial in the leadership arena and how they can be developed.
For those of you wanting to fast track your leadership development and tune up your EQ skills, there are in-depth, 360 reports that provide very specific feedback and debriefs. If you’re looking for something a little lighter, try taking Berkeley University’s online empathy test at http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/ei_quiz/ or check out the positive psychology quizzes at Penn State university at https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu
At the very least, learn to pause for a minute and consider what’s happening within and around you before diving into situations. Choose to respond rather than react – even that momentary pause will go a long way to developing those EQ skills.
Click on the below link to download the hand-out from the event:
To be added to our mailing and invite list to our up-and-coming events, please email Mereana Beconcini at firstname.lastname@example.org
Footnote: Inspire Group has the licence to administer personal and 360 Emotional Capital reports and debriefs for individuals or teams. These link Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Competencies.
Written by: Kate Reid