Transforming Leadership with Emotional Intelligence

Group meeting with cheerful leader

February 19, 2021  

Studies show that upwards of 90 percent of the difference between high-performing leaders and average ones can be attributed to emotional intelligence factors. However, despite the research, many continue to view EQ as a preferred – rather than an essential – leadership skill set, particularly in relation to IQ and functional expertise. The lack of EQ in leadership – especially within the senior leader levels of an organization – can have real business consequences. 

I’ll share a client story to help illustrate. 

Robert was hired into a C-suite role responsible for the lionshare of the operations at BioPlex* (executive and company names have been changed). From the outset, Robert’s colleagues noticed that despite his inarguably high intelligence, he had difficulty connecting and communicating with the team. He had a solid grasp of the technical aspects of his role – and what needed to be done operationally – but did not seem to understand the levers required to propel his team to produce results. In fact, his interactions with both peers and his team seemed to have the opposite desired effect: he could appear impatient and condescending, often “rubbing people the wrong way.” This created anger and resentment within the C-suite, and in particular with Christine, whose team worked closely with Robert’s. Communication quickly deteriorated; soon, Robert and Christine couldn’t be in the same room without arguing. The toxicity of their relationship permeated the organization – the isolated and polarized teams negatively impacted operations and ultimately resulted in significant financial losses for BioPlex. The CEO was frustrated and wasn’t sure how to fix the free-fall the company seemed to be in. 

When these situations occur, leaders often focus on surface issues such as poor decision making, operational mistakes, or financial losses. While these are all important to understand, the crux of the issue can be EQ: when a leader in a key role lacks self-awareness and the ability to form and manage relationships, the ripple effect on the organization can be devastating. My team and I developed a brief Q&A on EQ below. 

Emotional Intelligence Q&A 

What is EQ? 

EQ is the ability to perceive one’ s own (and others’) emotions and reactions, and to be able to effectively manage oneself in different settings and situations to garner the best outcome. High EQ leaders successfully build relationships and navigate organizations. 

Why is EQ important? 

The workplace is rapidly changing, and so are employees’ lives and needs. Emotionally intelligent leaders are able to navigate the complex work environment by leveraging their strengths – and that of their teams – to most effectively drive organizational success. A leader with high EQ stewards change, creates meaningful connections and demonstrates resiliency. Your ability to survey the landscape, perceive emerging needs, and develop relationships in this new era is crucial to maintaining morale and inspiring motivation to champion lasting change. 

Can EQ be developed? 

EQ seems to have both nature and nurture elements: it may seem to come more easily for some, but it can also be developed with deliberate and focused effort. EQ is about recognizing your strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots; being intentional in your communications; showing compassion; and connecting with a purpose bigger than yourself. These are skills that can be improved with practice paired with accurate and ongoing feedback. 

Over the next few months, I will be sharing a more in-depth focus on the components of Emotional Intelligence with tips on how to incorporate new practices to raise your leadership EQ. Focused effort on your leadership EQ will make a world of difference for both you and your team – and you’ll find it has benefits in your personal life as well! 

Patricia Carl