Emotional Intelligence was one of the key topics at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, attended by business leaders and politicians from around the globe. Emotional Intelligence (EI) is about how self awareness and the ability to empathise impact on self management and our relationships with others. Research shows that EI is often a better indicator of success than IQ alone.
Why is this important for business?
Firstly, the business landscape, as a result of the recession, has changed. There are new opportunities and new ways of working that mean dealing with greater uncertainity. Good leadership which engages people and inspires confidence and commitment is essential. Emotional Intelligence plays a big part in this.
Secondly, there is a new generation of employees emerging. Those in Generation Y seek openness, an interactive approach and personal engagement. They are individualistic yet collaborative. The focus on empathy and understanding others – an essential aspect of emotional intelligence – is central to being able to manage and lead this generation.
How do I develop EI?
EI is a state of mind and a way of approaching the world. It’s not simply a skill to be acquired. Developing our emotional intelligence enables us to be flexible and adaptable in our leadership style. There are 4 primary components that impact on how we relate to others:
Self-awareness is the cornerstone of EI. This is our ability to recognise how our emotions affect our behaviour and performance. Accurate self-assessment (knowing our resources, strengths and limits) enables us to have a degree of self-confidence and a sense of self-worth based on knowing our capabilities.
This self-awareness equips us to manage ourselves, keeping emotions under control and acting in line with our own values. Self-management is about resilience too – having persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and set-backs. And it’s about willingness to be adaptable, take the initiative and strive for achievement.
In turn, self-awareness contributes to social awareness – having empathy with other individuals, sensing their feelings and their perspectives and taking interest in their concerns. It means having organisational awareness – understanding groups, informal structures, power relationships and organisational politics. It also underpins ‘service orientation’ – the ability to anticipate, recognise and meet the needs of customers, clients and others.
These foundations provide a basis for effective relationship management, including the ability to influence others, to handle conflict and to develop teamwork and collaboration. This also extends to providing inspirational leadership and acting as a catalyst for change.
With the world’s business leaders realising that the old ‘command and control’ style of leadership won’t cut it in the new economy or with the emerging generation of employees (and potential leaders), we should see an alternative approach to leadership emerge with Emotional Intelligence at the core.
Reference: Goleman, D. (1995) Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ.New York: Bantam.
Professor Sigal Barsade of the Warton Business School, Keynote session on Emotional Intelligence and Business at Davos 2014