Emotional intelligence, once regarded as little more than “voodoo management,” is recognized today as a critical component of healthy relationships and effective leadership. Commonly referred to as “EQ,” emotional intelligence is known to make or break leaders and may have much more impact on a person’s overall quality of life than virtually any other factor. However, ask 10 people what emotional intelligence is and you’ll be lucky to get more than two coherent answers and only one of those will be on target. Why is it that something so important is understood by so few?
The answer to that question lies in our cultural values. Western, industrialized societies place great value on knowledge and skills. We trust the tangible and measurable. “Seeing is believing” is preferred over “go with your gut.” This emphasis on the objective elements of life means that, historically, we have also placed more value on cognitive skills (IQ) than on emotional and social skills (EQ).
However, over the past 10 years or so, at least two factors have eroded this cultural preference for IQ. First, management science has been studying the more subjective (read emotional and social) aspects of managing and leading for quite some time now. The lessons emerging from that research have contributed to better approaches to conflict management, collaboration and teamwork, negotiation, all aspects of HR management, as well as other facets of organizational leadership. Our understanding of the role of EQ in managing and leading has continued to improve over the last few decades and will continue to do so in the future.
The second factor that has eroded our cultural preference for IQ is the combined influence of the millennial generation and also of increasing cultural diversity. The “millennials” (those born in the early 1980s to the early 2000s) place a great value on community and they are much less tolerant of what is called “power distance.” (In short, low tolerance for power distance means they are less likely to accept unequal distribution of power, or authority, in an organization. Thus, millennials are more likely to see and relate to their leaders as peers than, say, baby boomers.) These traits of millennials mean that they place greater emphasis on emotional and social skill—and millennials have more and more responsibility for leadership in our organizations.
Increased cultural diversity is closely related to the impact of millennials’ values because their interest in community facilitates increasing diversity. Community, a desire to belong and build connections, requires increased emotional and social skills (EQ).
So I’ve established why EQ was not on our radar in the past, and why it is getting more attention now…and will grow in importance in the coming years. But what is EQ?
Recently, I wrote about the difference between cognitive intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ) in “IQ vs EQ.” There, I presented one of the earliest, and still among the best, scholarly definitions of EQ:
”An array of interrelated emotional and social competencies, skills and behaviors that determine how well we understand and express ourselves, understand others and relate with them, and cope with daily demands, challenges and pressures.”1
That’s a mouthful, but it has tremendous value and meaning in understanding what EQ is and how leaders can develop their emotional intelligence in the workplace and at home and in their community. It is my intention to develop more articles on this subject in the near future. We’ll explore the practical side of exercising EQ and how to develop it.
In the meantime, while I continue to develop these, please post your questions and ideas about EQ. Your feedback is valuable and I will use it to drive the direction of these articles.
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.
Photo “Canon EOS 60D – Tour De France 2014 Through the bottom of a Wine Glass” by TempusVolat. Available at Flickr.com.
1: “A broad definition of emotional-social intelligence according to the Bar-On model.” Found at http://reuvenbaron.org/wp/?page_id=37.