Emotional intelligence leads to effective leadership

With EA Sports’ preview of an emotionally intelligent video game, it has me thinking about the importance of a strong emotional intelligence in all walks of life - not just as a computer-generated soccer fan.

Prior to the 1990s, we only saw IQ as the gold standard for rating a person’s likelihood to succeed. Now EI is a ubiquitous measurement found in business strategies and Dilbert cartoons.

One area where EI has remained prominent is the realm of developing leadership. Possessing a high EI is an essential piece to becoming an effective leader, but what does this exactly mean? How can you improve your EI? Karen Cates asserts it is developing “awareness” of yourself and the people around you. Basically, you’re trying to grow your own empathy.

Building your soft skills will coincide with the traditional qualities of a good leader to make you exceptional, a concept antithetical with the typical assumption that our best leaders are those with the most technical experience.  Think about it: if you have two employees up for a senior management position and they both possess identical or similar qualifications, which one would you choose? More often than not, you would choose the employee who displays the strongest people skills, communication and empathy with co-workers.

To help yourself continue developing leadership skills, consider exploring executive leadership programs or simply take a few minutes at your next meeting to observe your employees’ behaviors, tones and physical clues. Build off those emotions. Observe your own tones and body language. How is this affecting the mood of the meeting?

If you’re feeling intimidated by having to “read the room,” take this quiz from Greater Good on reading expressions to see how well you decipher facial cues and gain information on noticing the subtle differences (I scored a 14/20 – about average). Reading expressions is essential to developing empathy, which in turn improves your overall EI and enhances your leadership skills.

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