Leadership Frame #1 – Emotional Intelligence (‘EQ’)

In an earlier post I signaled posting  on Leadership Frames – key techniques and skills for successful leaders – simple yet effective – this is the first of the series.

Leaders should understand the importance of EQ. It determines leadership success and top performers are high in EQ. Together with our innate intelligence (‘IQ’) and personality, it makes us who we are.

EQ is a flexible skill that can be learned. In other words, even if you are not born with it, high EQ is one of the leadership frames that can be developed. Many of the points in this post are highlighted in the excellent book  Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Bradberry & Greaves.

EQ, IQ and Personality: who we are

Our IQ (intellect or intelligence) is distinct from EQ.

Three distinct qualities we all possess - IQ and Personality which are fixed, and EQ which can be developed. (Graphic adapted from EQ 2.0)

IQ is not flexible and is fixed from birth. You do not get smarter by learning new facts or information. Intelligence is rather your ability to learn. It is the same at age15 or 50.

Personality is the third piece of the puzzle. It is the “style” that defines each of us and is a result of our preferences, such as our inclination to introversion or extraversion. Personality is stable over a lifetime, and personality traits appear early in life and they do not go away. In other words, like IQ, personality does not change.

IQ, personality, and EQ are distinctive qualities we all possess. Together, they determine how we think and act. These three, assessed together, are the best way to get a picture of the whole person.

What is EQ?

EQ is a leader’s ability to recognise and understand (be aware of) emotions in him/herself and in others.  All emotions are derivations of five core senses: happiness, sadness, anger, fear and shame. EQ is the ability to use this awareness to manage behaviour and relationships.

Everything we sense travels through our bodies up the spinal cord to the brain in the form of electric signals. The signals first pass through the brain’s limbic system, the place where emotions are produced. They then travel to our frontal lobe (behind our forehead) the place where rational, logical thinking takes place. The journey the signals follow ensures we experience things emotionally before reason and rationality kick in.

Electric signals from our 5 senses are sent up to our brain - are first experienced 'emotionally' in the Limbic area before moving to the Frontal or rational processing area. The Limbic and Frontal areas do communicate and this is the source of EQ. (Graphic adapted from EQ 2.0)

Why is EQ important for leaders?

Emotions can help or hurt a leader. Leaders have no control over these until they understand EQ, and can manage their emotions and develop their EQ.

EQ can be tested and measured and it can be improved and developed. This is important for you as leader, but equally for your whole leadership and management team.

What is the challenge with EQ?

While more people nowadays understand the importance of EQ, according to Bradberry few (only 36%) can identify emotions as they happen. However, nearly 70% of people are controlled by their emotions.

Our first reaction to an event is always an emotional one. We cannot control this. We can however control the thinking and reaction that follow an emotion, provided we are aware first of the emotion (and have well developed EQ).

The skills to master:

According to Bradberry the four key skills that a leader should master:

To succeed as a leader we must learn to maximize four critical EQ skills, two about ourselves and two about how we inter-relate with others. (Graphic adapted from EQ 2.0)

Steps to take:

I suggest the following:

  1. Make sure you understand EQ and how important it can be for you as a leader or senior manager
  2. Take the EQ 2.0 test so that you have a feel for where you sit in relation to EQ.
  3. Consider possible strategies you can implement to strengthen your EQ
  4. Develop a one-page plan and make its implementation one of your daily rituals.
  5. Practice
  6. Discuss your plan with those close to you or who you work with and trust and respect.
  7. Every six months review how you are progressing.

One more thing:

Having studied EQ, coached it and endeavoured to develop my own and help others develop there’s, it struck me how closely aligned it is with the teachings of the five thousand-year-old spiritual scriptures contained in the Bhagavad-Gita. For a wonderful example see Easwaran The Bhagavad-Gita for Daily Living

The Gita for instance recommends we learn to understand ourselves and our thinking and focus on controlling our senses, mind, ego and self–will. It suggests the main steps to doing this are:

  1. Meditation
  2. Repeating a mantram
  3. Learning to slow down
  4. Learning to be one-pointed i.e. the ability to concentrate on just one thing at a time
  5. Putting others first
  6. Restraining our senses
  7. Reading whatever spiritual teachings or scriptures appeal to us
  8. Aligning with a spiritual leader and/or teacher
  9. Exercise, health and eating to sustain the body.

Having direct experience over many years of both approaches, I strongly recommend using them together; they are a mighty powerful combination for a leader.

Good luck and I would love to hear others’ views on their own experiences and learnings.

Some EQ resources: