The Emotional Intelligence Breakthrough

When I ask you to think of a great leader who has Emotional Intelligence (EQ), who comes to mind? Nearly everyone I’ve posed this question to says it is a challenging question to answer. Informal polling responses include: Oprah Winfrey, Abraham Lincoln, LeBron James and Princess Diana.

Maybe the question seems so difficult because people aren’t sure what Emotional Intelligence (EQ) means.

So, let’s begin with a definition.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) has been defined as “skill in perceiving and understanding your emotions, and using your awareness to manage both yourself and your relationships.” Doug Lennick, former Executive VP of American Express Financial Advisors says:

“Emotional competence is the single most important personal quality that each us must develop and access to experience a breakthrough!”

Research shows the importance of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in leadership.

For example, in one study, 90% of top performers were high in EQ, but only 20% of low performers were high in EQ. In fact, it seems that the higher up the corporate ladder we want to rise, the more important EQ becomes. Additionally, the Center for Creative Leadership reports that:

“75% of careers are derailed for reasons related to emotional competencies, including inability to handle interpersonal problems, unsatisfactory team leadership during times of difficulty or conflict, or inability to adapt to change or elicit trust.” 

Daniel Goleman is widely credited with bringing the term Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to mainstream culture in 1995 with the release of his book of the same title. Starting with Goleman’s work, EQ has always included both personal and social areas of competence. Personal skills include self-awareness and self-management. And social skills include social awareness and relationship-management. When developing EQ, it’s essential to start with understanding and managing ourselves before we can begin to effectively interact with and lead others.

Emotion is central to Emotional Intelligence (EQ), and the word “emotion” comes from the latin verb “motere,” which means “to move.”

So, when you hear the phrase “moved with emotion,” that is exactly what happens in the brain. The emotional brain reacts faster than the rational brain can respond. While we may not be able to control our immediate “reaction” to a person or situation, we can control the intensity and duration of our “response.” That’s where EQ comes into play. In fact, Dr. Travis Bradberry (TEDx, 2017) explains that:

“Emotional Intelligence is in the part of the brain that is the pathway between the rational and emotional brains.”

He also has found that this part of the brain is highly adaptable. This means EQ is a skill that can be practiced and developed.

So how can you increase your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to facilitate achieving your leadership goals?

Of all of the advice I have read on EQ, the five-step process proposed by Daniel Goleman and his colleagues makes the most sense. See if this works for you:

  1. Who do you want to be? Imagine yourself as a highly successful leader. What would you act like, look like, sound like, and feel like?
  2. Who are you now? Ask for feedback from your supervisor, colleagues and direct reports (360-degree feedback if possible).
  3. How do you get from here to there? Develop a plan of action that includes new thoughts and behaviors.
  4. How do you make change stick? Practice the new thoughts and behaviors.
  5. Who can help you? Form a Go-to Team that will support you and hold you accountable.

If you make time to invest wisely in your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) growth, then you give yourself the greatest opportunity to raise your performance. You will definitely close the gap between where you are as a leader and where you aspire to be!