The more we study the subject of emotional intelligence (EQ), the more we understand how crucial it is to quality leadership. It enables you to better connect with and understand both your team and your customers—to identify whatever gaps might exist between what they want and what they’re currently getting, for example.
In this sense, EQ is instrumental in both motivating your teams and delivering authentically positive customer experience.
The truth remains, however, that few folks have a particularly high EQ. Perhaps even fewer understand how to go about developing it in their lives. But prioritizing EQ isn’t about pulling the wool over people’s eyes; it’s about being able to truly and honestly understand, inspire, and empathize. It’s about being able to connect with others and encourage a more genuine kind of cooperation. It’s about, in other words, being able to win both hearts and minds.
So the question for founders, team leads, managers, and folks who’re otherwise in leadership positions then becomes: how do you develop EQ to become a more effective leader and develop a message that’s going to resonate most tangibly with your audience?
Author Daniel Goleman has some insight into answering exactly that.
According to Goleman, EQ is composed of 5 primary elements:
- Social skills
Personally, of these traits, I’m working hardest at honing my awareness and ability to motivate and empathize with people. To me, these feel like the lynchpins of the twin pillars of my work: inspiring my team and connecting with customers to better understand what they want and need. As I inspire others, I too am inspired by the reaction and it becomes a great day!
As I’ve more purposefully pursued developing the awareness of my EQ, I’ve learned some things along the way. Namely, strengthening your EQ really comes down to two primary mindset shifts:
1) Not treating people as cogs in a machine.
Too often, leaders try to neatly bucket or segment people into siloes. We do this to try and scale or systematize our leadership. But this is ineffective, which is why the first step in developing your EQ is consciously acknowledging that every person both on your team and out in the world using your product or service is different. They have unique motivations, pain points, fears, and needs.
Internally, this means you need to appreciate the impact that every employee working for you has on the business. Doing so will allow you to truly adjust the way you operate. It will motivate you to genuinely seek to identify what makes people tick so that you can connect with them on their level.
This is particularly critical for those who’re expected to motivate and lead across departments and functionalities. You can’t inspire with a one-size-fits-all approach. The engineers on your team care about and find inspiration in different things than the marketers, the salespeople, etc. Knowing, appreciating, and empathizing with those differences is crucial.
2) Always treating people with respect.
To truly develop your EQ, though, you need to go the extra mile and try day-in and day-out to connect with those you work with or sell to.
This starts by honing genuine, honest respect for these folks––from your peers, to your subordinates, to those on the floors above you. That’s the only way you can ensure your attempts at connection are authentic and that you’re viewed as approachable.
From there, you need to put your appreciation of the importance of EQ into practice––tangibly trying to understand the people you’ve been charged with inspiring. You can do this by engaging in honest, curious conversations, either in the hallway between meetings, over lunch, or even on the phone with a client.
Throughout my career, one tactic I’ve used is scheduling “Brown Bag lunches” where everyone’s invited to eat lunch together and get to know each other a little more. I usually take the time during these lunches to speak on something personal or motivational that’s important to me but unrelated to individual functions.
I also make honest attempts whenever I can to learn more and connect with people who I don’t work with as closely. Those who work in shipping, or security, or support. Everyone is hungry for information, and every person is a wealth of insight. More importantly, everyone needs to feel seen and as if they have a voice.
And the fact is, handing out employee surveys just isn’t enough. In fact, it can inadvertently reinforce the feeling among employees that they’re actually just mechanical parts––not respected, valued humans.
All told, operating with increased EQ is akin to leading with a level of integrity, and it allows you to better build trust and mutual respect within your team.
When people on your team trust you and feel that you respect them, they’ll more readily follow your lead. They’ll want to contribute to the company’s mission because they feel like the opposite of a cog in a machine; they feel like a valued member of the team.
That’s what ‘Leadership EQ’ allows you to do: more genuinely value and appreciate other people so as to more authentically connect with and most importantly inspire them.
Getting to this point isn’t easy, exactly; developing your EQ, just like increasing your abilities at anything else, takes time, effort, and a genuine commitment.
But putting in that work is worth it. I’d argue that, in today’s world, it’s quite necessary.