Have you ever wondered what makes the difference between a successful leader and a merely valuable one? In terms of management, degrees and theoretical knowledge are not everything. Actually, more and more research points to the importance of emotional intelligence when it comes to dealing with other people and having them follow you in one direction (including in the workplace). According to research conducted by the Harvard Business Review, emotional intelligence accounts for nearly 90 per cent of what sets high performers apart. Meaning you can have the same qualifications as someone, and still lack that little something that will propel you to the highest leadership positions. Wondering what that little something we call Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ) exactly might be? Then read along!

Emotional intelligence vs IQ: what is emotional intelligence and is it measurable?

Most people are familiar with the concept of IQ or Intelligence Quotient, which is derived from a set of standardized tests designed to assess human intelligence. But have you ever heard of the EQ, or Emotional Quotient, relating to emotional intelligence? The EQ theory was introduced to the public in 1995 when the book Emotional Intelligence, written by science journalist Daniel Goleman, became a best-seller. Emotional Intelligence (EI) can be defined as the ability to perceive, use, understand and manage emotions. To put it simply, people tend to say that high IQs are “book smart” when high EQ individuals are “street smart”.

Since the term was coined, a variety of models have been developed to try to measure EI. The challenge is that EI is a pretty intangible quality… How do you measure one’s ability to understand emotions? In Goleman’s original model, the five pillars of emotional intelligence state that the emotionally intelligent person can identify what he or she is feeling, regulate his or her emotions, persevere in achieving goals, and use empathy to understand and inspire others.

In 2002, psychologists John Mayer, Peter Salovey and David Caruso designed an ability-based test: the MSCEIT. Using a hundred questions based on everyday scenarios, the MSCEIT measures how well people respond to social tasks, read facial expressions, and solve emotional problems. The test provides a total EI score, as well as 15 other scores that help understand someone’s emotional frame.

High IQs are “book smart”, high EQ individuals are “street smart”

Why do we need emotionally intelligent managers and leaders?

You can have all the degrees imaginable on Earth and still be very bad at interacting with other people or dealing with life’s menial tasks — which, eventually, are pretty good skills to have in life. When it comes to management and interpersonal practices, tapping into that emotional potential is crucial. As a matter of fact, the World Economic Forum stated in its 2020 “The Future of Jobs Report” that Emotional Intelligence was a highly demanded skill in most industries and countries. Approximately 82% of global companies now use EQ tests for executive positions. And for good reason: not only does emotional intelligence provide individuals with a better understanding of themselves that participates in increased well-being, but its benefits can trickle down onto a whole company.

Regarding the way emotional intelligence can improve management and economic growth, research from Lancaster University has shown that entrepreneurs who have a higher emotional intelligence work more effectively with team members, customers and clients. They are also more resilient when facing stressful situations. Managers who can show empathy are better at motivating their teams and will be more attuned to the customers’ desires, therefore increasing productivity and customer satisfaction at the same time. L’Oréal, by launching an EQ programme and recruiting talents who had a high EQ score, realised a $91,370 increase per head for salespeople. Moreover, EI would help entrepreneurs spot new opportunities. Who would have thought that empathy could be that prolific?

How to practice emotional intelligence?

If Emotional Intelligence is barely measurable, how can you know where you stand regarding that coveted skill, and how can you get better results? First of all, being emotionally intelligent takes a lot of self-knowledge and awareness.

The best way to start practising EI is to take a look at your own emotions, reactions, and the way you deal with other people as well as with frustration and negative emotions. To do that, some people have to learn how to recognise their feelings. Happiness, anger, sadness, jealousy are all part of the emotional spectrum. When they are not processed and recognised, they can influence the way we respond to our environment. By putting the right label on your emotions, you achieve better understanding and control of your reactions.

Some well-known management tools can also be helpful when it comes to getting in touch with your feelings. For example, doing a “SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)” analysis of yourself will participate in better self-assessment. On a piece of paper, write down your qualities and defects. Seeing where growth opportunities arise from, as well as writing down what makes you feel threatened at work, will help you get a clearer vision of your emotional landscape and possible shortcomings.

L’Oréal realised a $91,370 increase per head for salespeople by launching an EQ programme.

Interpersonal skills are also prevalent amongst emotionally intelligent leaders. If knowing how to “listen to your own gut” is important, so is being able to consider others’ feelings. In that sense, listening with compassion, tolerance and empathy is core to creating long-lasting connections. Taking into consideration your teammates’ goals and ambitions is key to keeping them motivated. A good listener will also pay attention to non-verbal communication, noticing his colleagues’ body language and interpreting the expression on their face.

Finally, practising awareness regarding your environment will also be useful. When it comes to good leadership, assessing your corporate environment will make a world of a difference. Being aware of other people’s moods, states and feelings, combined with the acute sense of your organisation’s processes and goals, will provide you with a global understanding of the stakes at play. Connecting to the individuals around you while having a holistic view of your surroundings will make you a likeable and successful leader. Cheers to that!