The importance of Emotional Intelligence in leadership
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We interact with people every day – from WhatsApp messages with friends and family, to those endless work emails. Each interaction requires navigating emotions – our own and other peoples’ – and it can get messy, fast!

That is where Emotional intelligence (EI) – sometimes referred to as EQ (Emotional Quotient) – comes in. It is the ability to combine your thinking with your feelings to build quality relationships and make good decisions.

Emotional Intelligence includes some specific skills. Psychology Today magazine names them as: “emotional awareness, or the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions; the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and helping others to do the same.”

The term Emotional Intelligence was defined in 1990 by psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer. They found four different levels of EI: perceiving emotions, reasoning with emotions, understanding emotions, and managing emotions.


Why leaders with strong EI are in demand

In the past, EI was thought of as ‘nice’ to have because it would help you lead a happy life. But now big business is understanding it’s an essential, powerful quality to look for in leaders they recruit.

Research by EQ provider TalentSmart showed that Emotional Intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance – which has made hiring managers everywhere sit up and take notice.

Plus, 71% of employers surveyed by CareerBuilder said they value EI over IQ, reporting that employees with high EI are more likely to stay calm under pressure, resolve conflict effectively, and respond to co-workers with empathy.

Daniel Golman, who wrote the ground-breaking book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, put it this way: “If your emotional abilities aren't in hand, if you don't have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can't have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”



How to know if you have high or low Emotional Intelligence


If all this has made you wonder whether your own Emotional Intelligence would be considered low, average or high – thereby affecting your career prospects – there are some general signs to look out for.

People with low EI must always be 'right’, are oblivious to other people's feelings, blame others for their problems, have poor coping skills, have frequent emotional outbursts, and often turn conversations toward themselves. They are also unable to understand themselves and their abilities and rarely reflect on their own behavior.

Whereas people with high EI handle criticism without denial or anxiety, are open-minded, are good listeners, apologize when they’re wrong, and are truthful but not cruel. They are also empathetic and are able to influence others’ positively.


The truth is, most of us probably fall somewhere in the middle and have average EI – but you can take plenty of online tests to give you an idea!

Here’s a basic free one from the Global leadership Foundation to get you started.


It’s all about social skills

Great leaders with high EI have top personal and social skills and are great communicators. They are always reflective on their own behavior and can pinpoint their own strengths and weaknesses. They are just as open to hearing bad news as good news, and they're fantastic at getting their team to support them on a new mission or project. They set an example with their own behavior.

These social skills mean they’re also good at managing change and resolving conflicts diplomatically.

You can build your own personal and social skills by:

  • Continuously reflecting on your own behavior and experiences. Also always ask for constructive feedback to help in enhancing your self-awareness and continue to develop.
  • Managing your emotions by knowing what helps you in calming you down during heated conversations. Make critical decisions when you know that you are in the right mind and your emotions are managed.
  • Learning conflict resolution – Leaders must know how to resolve conflicts between their team members, customers, or vendors. This is quite a specialized skill so look for courses or workshops in Saudi that offer this training.
  • Improving your communication skills – The Mindtools communication quiz will help you answer this question and give useful feedback on what you can do to improve.
  • Learning how to praise others – As a leader, you can inspire the loyalty of your team simply by giving praise. You can try this right now! Think of people in your life who you could be more vocally supportive of in their efforts. You will soon see the positive impact you can have.