Emotional intelligence and its importance in the workplace


All things being equal, an emotionally intelligent leader is more likely to be successful than one who is not. Here’s why. 

Let’s cut to the chase: emotional-intelligence quotient, or EQ, is really just fancy psychology talk for good old-fashioned people skills – the ability to understand what makes people (including yourself) tick and using that knowledge to get the best result.

The one competency that is key to all business activities is interpersonal skills. Those who have them prosper, and those who don’t usually struggle. The good news is that – unlike IQ – EQ is a skill that can be developed.

Though not the first to explore the idea of emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, explosively brought the concept into public awareness and took the business world by storm. Goleman suggests there are specific competencies to EQ.

1. Self EQ: This refers to the ability to understand and work with our own emotions, including knowing your emotions, managing them and motivating yourself. Goleman calls this self-awareness, self-regulation and self-motivation.

2. Other EQ: This is the ability to recognise other people’s emotions and manage relationships. It includes social awareness, social skills, leadership and conflict management – among others.

Does high emotional intelligence equate to good workplace performance?

Well, yes. According to a study by Swinburne University, high EQ predicted effective leadership. Numerous other studies also find a link between EQ and workplace performance. This makes sense when you consider what EQ can do for you.

The ability to understand and regulate your own emotions helps you stay calm under pressure, and keeping this calm helps in making rational decisions. This can be a halo effect that positively influences colleagues, helping them stay calm and effective as well. This generates confidence all around, which can make the difference between succeeding or crashing in a crisis.

High emotional intelligence helps others as well

Similarly, the ability to understand your colleagues’ emotions and motivations puts you in the driver’s seat, particularly if you are in a leadership role. Having empathy for your colleagues builds trust and commitment, and being able to cultivate their intrinsic motivators and abilities makes you one of those leaders who people just want to work for.

This is because our emotions really are in charge when it comes to motivation. Few people realise this, but it’s through our emotions that our bodies motivate us to fulfil our needs. Fear, sadness, anger, shame, guilt and even hatred are all working to keep us safe, achieve our goals, assert our boundaries and remain connected to our social group.

Effective leaders have high EQ

Great leaders intuitively understand that loyalty, commitment and hard work can’t be required – they must be given willingly, and that happens only when the person giving them believes that their boss really cares about who they are and what they need.

Having good IQ and relevant skills and competencies is still important, but few of us work in isolation, so EQ is the skill that really makes you effective in the workplace. A great many successful leaders weren’t particularly good at the tasks of their industry, but they were great at getting other people to perform above expectations.

If you wish to move up the ladder in the business world, there really is no better investment than developing your EQ.

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