Emotional Intelligence: The Key to Successful Leadership

Success in business is usually attributed to skills, hard work, smart risk-taking and clear thinking. However, one more key component contributes significantly to the effectiveness of a leader and the success of a business or project: emotional intelligence. Sometimes dismissed as a “soft” skill, emotional intelligence is now considered an important characteristic among employees to be seen as strong contributors to the success and survival of a business. To learn more, checkout this infographic created by Brandeis University’s Online Master fof Science in Project and Program Management program.

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Traditional Success Factors

While pure intelligence remains an important factor in business success, it is not the only key. People with high IQs, for example, outperform people with average IQs only 20% of the time. People with average IQs, on the other hand, trump the performance of high-IQ individuals 70% of the time. Of the top performers, 90% scored well in emotional intelligence. By far, emotional intelligence is the strongest success predictor when it comes to employees, accounting for nearly 60% of success compared to other skills considered valuable in the workplace.

Understanding Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence or EI is an individual’s ability to understand, recognize, manage and influence his emotions and that of others. This ability affects how the individual responds or reacts to stimulus or his environment. There are 5 attributes of emotional intelligence. These are:

Self-Awareness – the ability to understand one’s own abilities, strengths, limitations and weaknesses, and how one’s actions may affect other people.

Self-Regulation – the ability to express emotions while showing control and restraint.

Empathy – the ability to exhibit compassion and to connect with other people emotionally.

Motivation – the ability to perform and complete tasks without needing influence or support from other people or a certain situation. Self-motivated individuals are also optimistic, flexible and resilient.

People Skills – the ability to work with and lead other people, collaborate and resolve conflicts, thereby creating a positive environment.

Why Employees With High Emotional Intelligence Are Better

More and more companies are choosing to hire employees with high EI for a number of reasons. These are:

Better Performance

Majority of the competencies that are associated with high-performing employees are associated with emotional intelligence. The link between EI and job performance is so strong that one EI point increase could potentially equate to a $1300 increase to an employee’s annual salary.

Increased Sales

Sales employees who have high emotional intelligence are known to perform better than low- or average EI employees by 50%. When American Express trained financial advisors to improve their emotional competence, they enjoyed an increase in business by 18%.

Improved Productivity

Programmers with very high emotional intelligence competencies are capable of producing new software more efficiently. At a Motorola manufacturing facility, 93% of workers showed an increase in productivity after undergoing training in EI and stress management.

Improved Retention

Failure to retain high-value employees (particularly in sales) can be expensive for companies due to loss of manpower, and additional cost of recruitment and re-training. After assessments involving emotional intelligence were performed in one company, retention of staff increased by nearly 70%, a result that saved the company more than $30 million.

Creating a Positive Workplace

When manufacturing plant supervisors received training in emotional competence, they reported a decrease in lost-time accidents and formal grievances. This in turn helped them exceed their productivity goals by about $250,000.

How to Evaluate Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence can be assessed using different methods. Although businesses could provide training in emotional competence for employees, they should consider using emotional intelligence testing as a key component of the recruitment and hiring process. There are tests designed to assess and measure emotional intelligence in individuals and can be useful tools, but the recruitment process can be further made effective by evaluating EI through interviews. An interview is the ideal method for EI assessment because it is designed to be intensive and focused, thereby ensuring proper evaluation of the candidate. It is also considered the cheapest and easiest method of assessment. The U.S. Airforce, for example, spent less than $10,000 for testing emotional competence and saved $2.76 million in recruiting expenses in just a year.

Using Interviews to Test for Emotional Intelligence

An interview will help the hiring officer evaluate an applicant’s attributes related to emotional intelligence based on the answers provided. An applicant’s responses will provide insight into many aspects of his personality and characteristics, including his ability to manage emotions. A few examples of interview questions that may be used for evaluation are:

1. Tell me about a time when you needed to use your imagination or creativity to help a customer with an issue.

- This question will help test empathy, people skills and motivation.

2. Tell me about an incident or situation when you failed to deliver on a certain result. What steps did you take to correct the situation?

- This question tests for self-regulation and motivation.

3. Was there ever a time when your work was criticized or when you disagreed with someone? How did you handle it?

- This question tests for self-regulation and people skills.

4. Describe an incident when you did or said something that affected your team or client positively or negatively. How did you realize it as such?

- This question tests for self-awareness, people skills, empathy and self-regulation.

5. What is the common misconception about you at work?

- This question tests for self-awareness and motivation.

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