While intelligence may not be, strictly speaking, an essential component of leadership, it certainly helps. Particularly in the business world, a dynamic and complicated environment, intelligence is key to helping leaders evaluate the facts at hand to make the best decisions.
But, traditional intelligence isn’t the only form of intelligence that can contribute to the potential success of a leader. Emotional intelligence (EQ) can actually be a very strong indicator of an individual’s leadership potential, even if that individual hasn’t fully developed as a leader just yet.
John Mayer and Peter Salovey are credited with introducing the concept of emotional intelligence back in 1990. Daniel Goleman later popularized the concept, which came to be referred to as “EQ.”
Rita Allen, writing for the Association of Talent Development, defines EQ as “our ability to identify and manage our own emotions, as well as recognize those of others and groups.” EQ, she says, “requires effective communication between the rational and emotive centers of our brain; it represents the path between feeling and reason.”
Characteristics of EQ include:
- Self-awareness—the ability to recognize and understand your emotions;
- Self-regulation—the ability to control your emotions;
- Motivation—the ability to exhibit delayed gratification and to focus on long-term, as opposed to short-term, success;
- Empathy—the ability to recognize and understand the needs and perspectives of others; and
- Social skills—the ability to positively interact with others.
How does having a strong emotional intelligence contribute to leadership potential? It relates to how leaders are able to identify and recognize their own challenges and motivations, as well as those of others, and using that awareness to address employee concerns and motivate teams.
“Leadership begins and ends with inner strength requiring the ability to understand ourselves very well while consistently learning, growing and developing,” says Allen. “In addition to enhancing self-awareness, strong leaders are adaptable to their surroundings, transparent, exhibit positive energy and practice emotional self-control.”
When the term was first popularized, many brushed it off as another “flavor of the month” management concept. It has become, though, a concept with staying power. Over the years, EQ has increasingly served as the basis for helping employees develop the personal skills that can position them for leadership—and helping leaders hone those skills.