Betty-Ann's Both Sides Blog

The Intangible EQ Holds Real Value on Your Leadership Balance Sheet

The polar opposites emotional quotient (EQ) and intelligence quotient (IQ) both hold value on your leadership balance sheet, yet most leaders focus on IQ, underestimating the value of the intangible EQ.

These leaders, enhance their financial skills and logical problem solving while employees say they are more motivated by a leader with high EQ. They want someone who spends time asking questions to better understand them and demonstrates empathy.

The root of EQ is self-awareness: it’s how we manage our emotions; how we react to the emotions of others; how we maneuver social situations and how we make personal decisions to achieve our desired results.

When preparing a company for the market, a CEO would never skip over the intangible Goodwill value from brand recognition so why do they dismiss the intangible results from EQ? Maybe these CEOs are too much in their Masculine Energy and focused on tangible results? Or maybe they refuse to recognize a personal shortcoming?

I worked with a CEO like that once- his EQ deficiency resulted in him alienating one individual after another. As senior executives in the company, we used to joke amongst ourselves that “if our CEO hasn’t pissed them off, it could only be because he hasn’t met them yet!” Consequently, we were always cleaning up after his encounters.

Unfortunately, he didn’t see his inability to identify with others’ feelings and emotions as a shortcoming. Instead, he viewed himself as someone who was totally rational, skilled at itemizing and weighing the pros and cons of every choice. What he didn’t see in himself was the overall lack of respect he demonstrated toward others when their opinions and judgments didn’t align with his. His EQ deficiency meant that he spent a lot of time operating within the vice of disdain, which seriously harmed his relationships.

It’s time for leaders to recognize the real value of EQ on their balance sheet and cultivate this key leadership skill. It will make them more successful and better able to transform their organizations.

EQ is also set to become more important. As artificial intelligence and machine learning transform how businesses operate, people will need to focus more on uniquely human skills like empathy and awareness. So not only is emotional intelligence a competitive advantage for the businesses of today, it’s also a necessity for the businesses of tomorrow.

Despite this, things are moving in the wrong direction. The higher up the ranks you go inside a company, the lower the EQ scores (measures of emotional intelligence) drop. A study of 1 million people by TalentSmart found that CEOs, on average, have the lowest EQ scores in the workplace.

To understand why, we can look at two helpful examples: poor people and the former US President, Obama.

Research shows that as people’s wealth increases, their compassion and empathy go down. Poor people are more likely to be generous with money and to stop for pedestrians in the street. They may depend more on interpersonal relationships, and therefore be more attuned to them.

This same idea applies with power in the workplace. As people work their way up to the highest ranks, they lose touch with the daily challenges and aspirations of people at lowest ranks. They start to see people in large groups, rather than as individuals. And they treat people as problems to solve, rather than fellow human beings to relate to. This helps explain why research finds power reduces concern for others.

There’s also the matter of time. As leaders take on big efforts to guide an entire enterprise, they rarely pause to connect with many others on an emotional level. As President Obama said after his first year in office, “(W)e were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values.”

For business leaders, these conversations need to take place frequently, and in both directions — with leaders listening as much or more than they are speaking.

Here are some of the ways leaders can build up their emotional intelligence:

Share power. Be unafraid to let your reports take on projects and leadership. Don’t “helicopter parent” them. Giving them room to succeed builds trust and confidence and allows for much greater emotional connection.

See everyone as equal. Having different levels of responsibility in the workplace does not remove the inherent equality we all have as human beings. As top executives make decisions that can dramatically change people’s lives and ability to support their families, it’s easy to lose this sense of equality. Executives need frequent reminders that when it comes to one-on-one interactions, they should treat people with equal concern and emotional awareness.

Be conscious of unspoken communication. Leaders need to notice body language and facial expressions. Go into meetings with a specific plan to observe how people are sitting, standing, etc. Try to conclude what they’re thinking. After the meeting, feel free to bring up one-on-one any questions you may have about what they were thinking and feeling. For example, say, “I got the impression that you may not be fully on board with this idea. Is that the case? What might we do to help get you on board?”

Encourage people to question you. Some leaders don’t like to be questioned. But if they reject or put down people for doing so, they’re missing out. Many people ask questions simply to understand. Or they may want to offer ideas. Always welcome this, and have the confidence to encourage it.

Fortunately, anyone can increase emotional intelligence. It can be learned. By making EQ a priority, that intangible will deliver tangible results. Though it takes time and effort, the more valuable leadership balance sheet is worth it.