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High Emotional Intelligence, Key to Leading During Tough Times

According to Psychology Today, Emotional intelligence (also known as EQ (Emotional Quotient) or EI) refers to the awareness of and ability to manage one’s emotions. It also refers to one's ability to influence another's emotions. Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to understand, use, and manage your emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, diffuse tension and conflict, communicate effectively, and empathize with others.

Emotional intelligence is generally said to include at least four skills:high emotional intelligence key to leading during tough times

  1. Self Awareness
  2. Self Management
  3. Social Awareness
  4. Relationship Management

Emotional intelligence helps you build stronger relationships and enhances the developmental coaching you provide for your employees to help them achieve their goals and is a key component to structured sales coaching. It helps you to connect with your feelings to make informed decisions.  While there is no validated psychometric test or scale for emotional intelligence as there is for general intelligence, many thought leaders and researchers believe that Emotional Intelligence is just as important as IQ. 

Studies have found that EQ is a key competency for effective leadership and is the number-one predictor of professional success.  An emotional leader can influence the emotional atmosphere of their entire team.  A Leaders’ EI affects organizational profitability and performance because they must be able to relate to and understand employees, customers and competitors in order to gain a competitive advantage.

In a Gallup study of two million employees across 700 different companies, researchers found that employee turnover and productivity is largely attributed to the employee's supervisors. Simply put, engaged teams have less turnover, higher NPS (Net Promoter Scores), greater profitability and  higher productivity.  Employees who had managers with high EI were four times less likely to leave than those who had managers with low EQ. 

Why Emotional Intelligence is Key to Leading During Tough Times
During a recession like the one we're currently experiencing, the first, almost instinctive reaction of management is to reduce expenses by cutting salaries, eliminating jobs and cutting all discretionary spending. For these reasons, the timeliness and effectiveness of a swift and successful turnaround falls squarely on the shoulders of leadership and talent management. Why? Because during a recession even the smallest of issues and difficulties that emerge can demoralize the best of your employees. The dire need for emotional support and motivation in the workplace under such demanding conditions is more important than ever and key to mitigating any reduction in employee productivity.  Instead of paying lip service to the catch-phrase “our people are our most important asset,” organizations should demonstrate that they are committed to investing in their employees during the tough times and making them more valuable to the organization by upskilling their skills and knowledge. 

Therefore, it is imperative to have leaders on board who possess high emotional intelligence and are sensitive to the needs of their people and understand the importance of recognizing and fully leveraging the knowledge and unique skills of each employee.

Recognizing Your Emotional Intelligence


Self-awareness defines your ability to not only understand your strengths and weaknesses, but your ability to recognize your emotions and the effect they have on you and others including your team’s performance.

According to research by organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich, 95% of people think they’re self-aware, but only 10 to 15 percent actually are, and that can pose problems for your employees. Working with colleagues who aren’t self-aware can cut a team’s success in half and, according to Eurich’s research, lead to increased stress and decreased motivation.

Perhaps you've heard the saying, "you can't love others until you love yourself."  Well, in order to bring out the best in others, leaders first need to bring out the best in themselves.  This is self-awareness 101.  To assess your self-awareness try completing 360-degree feedback survey in which you evaluate your performance and then match it up against the opinions of your boss, peers, and direct reports. Through this process, you’ll gain insights into your own behaviors and discover how others in your organization perceive you. 


Self-management refers to your ability to manage your emotions, particularly in stressful situations, and maintain a positive outlook despite setbacks and what you might be hearing. Leaders who lack self-management tend to react and have a harder time keeping their emotions in check.

The more "in tune" you are with your emotional intelligence, the easier you can make the transition from simply reacting to offering a thoughtful response.  For leaders, it is incredibly important to remember to pause, breathe, collect yourself, and do whatever it takes to remain composed and not act impulsive.

Social Awareness

While it’s important to understand and manage your own emotions, you also need to know how to read other's emotions. Social awareness describes your ability to recognize others’ emotions including those involved in a group or team dynamics within your organization.

Leaders who excel in social awareness practice empathy. They strive to understand their colleagues’ feelings and perspectives, which enables them to communicate and collaborate more effectively with their peers. 

Global leadership development firm DDI ranks empathy as the number one leadership skill, reporting that leaders who master empathy perform more than 40 percent higher in coaching, engaging others, and decision-making. In a separate study by the Center for Creative Leadership (pdf), researchers found that managers who show more empathy toward their direct reports are viewed as better performers by their boss. Not surprisingly, empathy is one of seven essential coaching skills.

Relationship Management

As a leader, your job is all about managing relationships including those of your customers, employees, shareholders, partners and vendors. Relationship management refers to your ability to influence, coach, develop, and mentor others, and effectively resolve conflict.

While many prefer to avoid conflict, properly addressing conflict as it arises is a key leadership skill. In fact, research from Harvard Business Review shows that every unaddressed conflict can waste about eight hours of company time in gossip, back channel communications and other unproductive activities, draining resources and morale.  To retain your staff, maintain high morale and keep your employees engaged, leaders must possess the ability to have these tough conversations.

Leaders set the tone of their organization. If they lack emotional intelligence, it could have far-reaching consequences, resulting in low employee engagement and higher turnover.  While you might excel at your job technically, if you can’t effectively communicate with your team or collaborate with others, those technical skills become a moot point.  After all, your people don't care about how much you know until they first know how much you care.

To learn more about how to empower your people and coach and develop talent download our eBook, How to Create a Culture of Accountability Through Coaching and Empowerment.

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