Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a relatively new concept in business terms – it was coined only thirty years ago by Salovey and Mayer and over time it has become recognised as a fundamental aspect of leadership (Owans, 2015). The importance of emotional intelligence in leadership is arguably more important than ever, with both current and emerging generations having very different working requirements to those of earlier years. This paper discusses the presence of EQ in leaders and how it enables them to navigate the changing desires of multi-generations, how EQ can impact individual and team morale and also affect the profitability of a business.
EQ has become particularly well-known due to the work of Daniel Goleman who published: Emotional Intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ. His work highlighted the link between successful leaders and emotional intelligence. Goleman surmised that:
“The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but…they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. My research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.” (Goleman, 2004)
Seemingly his findings have become even more relevant over time. The expectations of how employees want to be managed, supported and listened to in the workplace have evolved. The importance of individuality at work is becoming more prevalent with each generation particularly ‘Generation Y’ and the emerging ‘Generation Z’. Where the ‘Veteran Generation’ valued “sacrifice, hard work, conformity to the rules and had a respect for authority” (Tanner, 2016) the ‘Generation Y’ employees are open-minded, unafraid of change and prefer their boss to coach rather than manage them in the workplace (Tanner, 2016). These changes in expectations have resulted in the ever-changing landscape of leadership becoming more challenging and therefore leaders are required to adapt.
Goleman (2004), discusses five necessary components of emotional intelligence at work: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills (Ovans, 2015). Briefly looking closer at these components gives us a better understanding of how EQ can affect the working team.
- Goleman et al. (2017) considered self-awareness the foundation for the other components. It was stated that “without recognising our own emotions, we will be poor at managing them and less able to understand them in others” (p.30) suggesting that this component may contribute towards more fluid team relations as the leader is able to recognise when dynamics are off balance.
- Self-regulated leaders are able to “create an environment of trust and fairness” (Goleman, 2004) further creating a culture where employees have the opportunity to thrive in a mutually respectful workplace.
- Motivation can manifest in many ways but, in EQ this is a motivation to achieve rather than motivated by external reward. For example, working towards a common goal to achieve together with their team as opposed to dictating actions.
- Empathy is a valuable characteristic, particularly in the future of leadership. In EQ it is describe as “thoughtfully considering employees feelings – along with other factors – in the process of making intelligent decisions” (Goleman, 2004). This may contribute towards employees feeling they are being treated as an individual which is gradually becoming more important in the workplace.
- A leader’s role is to “get work done through other people” (Goleman, 2004) therefore social skills are perhaps the most important skills of all. Without them, employees and peers alike may not be inclined to work alongside their leaders to achieve their common goals.
The importance of EQ stems beyond the impact it has on teams. There is evidence that alongside IQ and technical skills, EQ can have a positive effect on financial performance. A study showed that companies with CEOs demonstrating high emotional intelligence, increased ROA by as much as five times compared to those with low EQ (Fred Kiel, 2015). This demonstrates that, with the presence of an emotionally intelligent leader, perhaps it motivates and enables employees to work towards objectives and goals in a more inspired way.
The ever-changing dynamics of leadership means that emotional intelligence continues to play a vital role in leadership. The presence of IQ and technical skills are required but must work alongside emotional intelligence. As the needs of the recent generations are significantly different to earlier generations, the ability to consider individual and team dynamics whilst making intelligent decisions, is more important than ever. This will not only improve team performance but also have a direct effect on the financial performance of a business. that affect a team is something that future leaders should not only be aware of but also work hard to practice these skills.