Why the best leaders have high EQs

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is real and super important. Broadly, it is the ability to:

  • Perceive emotions in yourself and other people accurately
  • Understand emotions and use language to describe them
  • Manage and regulate your emotions and those of others
  • Use emotions as a source of information in creativity, problem-solving, and social situations like conflict resolution and negotiation

But you know that. You’re smart. But maybe you don’t yet know that emotionally sensitive companies and leaders who have high EQs are measurably more successful.

Emotionally sensitive companies perform better

“The Carnegie Institute of Technology carried out research that showed that 85% of our financial success was due to skills in “human engineering”, personality, and ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead.” – Fast Company

There are overwhelming correlations between workforce performance and highly-developed EQ in those workforces. Workplaces that prioritize development of EQ create teams that work better together. This makes perfect sense, because our brains’ limbic systems are open-loop, meaning that they require external inputs to manage themselves. People’s emotional states, mood and outlook, are contagious. Low EQ harms a workforce’s ability to create an environment that inspires, delights and drives workers to excel.

All great leaders have high EQs

“When asked to define the ideal leader, many would emphasize traits such as intelligence, toughness, determination, and vision… Such skills and smarts are necessary but insufficient qualities for the leader… Although a certain degree of analytical and technical skill is a minimum requirement for success, studies indicate that emotional intelligence may be the key attribute that distinguishes outstanding performers from those who are merely adequate.” – Daniel Goleman, Rutgers University

In 1998, Daniel Goleman released a paper that revolutionized popular conceptions of a great leader. Recent research suggests that more empathic leaders cause great productivity and profit margins for their companies. Profit margins for companies with CEOS who had high scores for EQ were 5 times higher than those with low scores. Some of the most extraordinary business leaders in the world have incredible EQ.

How do I improve my EQ?

You can do a simple test with the Institute for Health and Human Potential here. This will give you a good initial idea of your EQ.

Many companies online will try to charge you all manner of fees for the latest and strangest new-fangled EQ-training program. For now, here is one easy approach to improve a foundational part of your EQ, self-awareness:

Through reflection, work through the following questions:

  • Who do I want to be?
  • Who am I now?
  • How do I work from here to there?
  • How do I make change stick?
  • Who can help me?

For more guidance on this, check out Anne McKee’s exploration of the method.