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How to Acquire Emotional Intelligence and Why It Matters

Blend both IQ and EQ proportionately to achieve leadership effectiveness and success.



Image Credit: Unsplash

Emotional intelligence (EQ or EI) can be defined as the process of identifying your emotions and that of others, managing your emotions, motivating your emotions, and aligning the emotions to achieve desired objectives. It involves self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, social awareness, and social skills. 

Emotional intelligence is essential to succeed in your personal, professional, and social life. Most successful leaders are emotionally intelligent. It helps them enhance self-awareness, minimize conflicts and boost fraternity. It helps them fast-track their career. 

Empathy is the key element of emotional intelligence.  Empathy is the ability to step into the shoes of others and see things from their perspective. If you observe leaders, they listen more and speak less to be able to empathize with their followers. If followers display sympathy, leaders demonstrate empathy and that causes a fine difference between the followers and the leaders.

Advantages of Emotional Intelligence 

Emotional intelligence enhances self-awareness. It improves decision-making skills by balancing the head, heart, and gut. It helps build relationships. It equips you with soft skills. It enhances empathy. It helps you acquire total control of yourself and the situation around you under unfavorable circumstances. 

It helps you act, not react to the situations, thus allowing stability under stressful conditions. It eliminates conflicts and minimizes stress. It provides you with peace and happiness. You motivate yourself and others. You can identify what turns you on and off and stay equipped with mindfulness.

Research shows that emotional intelligence accounts for as much as 31% of success in management contexts.  It helps minimize conflicts in the workplace as people learn to empathize with and respect others. It promotes healthy relations among people. 

It helps in getting along with various personality types at the workplace by gauging their feelings, moods, and emotions.  It enhances productivity and performance. Above all, it helps in handling difficult people assertively.

“It is very important to understand that emotional intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence, it is not the triumph of heart over head – it is the unique intersection of both.” — David Caruso

Building Emotional Intelligence 

The executives who reach higher positions must have higher emotional intelligence as handling such a profile needs more people skills and less technical skills. It is essential to take the time to recognize the emotions, feelings, and drives of the people around you. 

We must identify with the causes of people’s feelings to understand them better.  We must learn lessons from time to time to bring out behavioral changes in ourselves and improve our score of emotional quotient. 

It is essential to develop empathetic listening to build EQ. Read about some other steps to building emotional intelligence here. 

  • Empathize with others. Step into the shoes of others and understand and appreciate things from their perspective.  It not only makes things easier for you but also helps you earn respect from others.  You can easily build bridges with others. 
  • Be compassionate towards others. Respect their feelings, egos, and emotions. Look for similarities, not differences.  When you create a common ground with others, you can connect with them easily and quickly. 
  • Respect all cultures, languages, creeds, ethnicities, religions, and nationalities.  It creates a broad mindset resulting in wider acceptance. 
  • Link your intentions with actions as it creates credibility with the people around you.  If you want others to be punctual, be the first one to do that before demanding the same from others. 
  • Always keep anger at bay as it is the worst enemy.  Anger drains valuable energies and creates negative vibes.  When in anger, start counting, either in ascending or descending order, to enable you to forget anger by diverting your mind.  Drinking water and breathing exercises help you cool down when in anger.  When you breathe deeply, more oxygen gets inside your brain and relieves you from anxiety.     
  • Be assertive. Neither aggressiveness nor submissiveness works in this world. What works ultimately is assertiveness which is the art of saying ‘No’ firmly, but politely.
  • Take intrapersonal feedback whenever something goes wrong. You are the best judge of your actions and feelings.  You are true to your conscience.  Intrapersonal feedback helps improve behavior.  
  • Blend your head and heart to make decisions based on logic and analysis. Don’t make impulsive decisions. Your best friend having a bad experience with someone doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is bad. 
  • To be high on EQ, people must know their own selves properly to enable them to lead others effectively.  

Challenges in Learning Leadership 

Why is learning leadership challenging for everyone?  The basic problem for people to succeed as leaders is the lack of EQ, and that comes mostly from experience.  When leaders are equipped with EQ their success rate is higher. 

While teaching leadership, educators inspire the audience with several stories and case studies.  That is one side of the coin.  The other side is for the leaders to practice what has been learned in the classroom.  

It is like learning about swimming.  When one gets into water, one realizes the actual challenge.  Similarly, people must practice leadership through active involvement through the trial and error method.  

However, having theoretical knowledge about leadership aspects and concepts helps minimize mistakes and prepares one to face challenges squarely.  

Is EQ Superior to IQ? 

Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is inborn whereas Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ) is a skill that can be acquired.  There are standard tools and techniques to measure IQ but there are no such effective tools to measure EQ as the intentions and actions of human beings cannot be measured easily. 

Additionally, cross-cultural issues complicate measuring EQ. There is no yardstick to measure human emotions accurately. Although there are psychological tests to measure EQ, their accuracy cannot be proved. 

IQ helps in academic achievement while EQ helps in career achievement. IQ is synonymous with knowledge while EQ is synonymous with the application of knowledge. 

When it is viewed analytically, it is the application of knowledge that is more important than the knowledge itself. 

Daniel Goleman observes, “Simply having an IQ of superior range does not in itself guarantee that they will be superior professionals in their respective areas; the IQ suffers from range restriction in many applied organizational settings and thus is even more limited in its ability to predict performance and career success within a given location.” 

Your IQ remains more or less the same irrespective of your age whereas your EQ can improve if you make the correct effort.  Individuals with high EQ can cope with stress and burnout.  

Additionally, high EQ is a sign of satisfaction while low EQ is a sign of dissatisfaction. Therefore, high EQ certainly leads to success in personal, professional, and social life.  Some people equate EQ with soft skills. 

Then we can equate IQ with hard skills. To put it succinctly, soft skills outsmart hard skills. Hence, EQ supersedes IQ.

Final Thoughts 

As the global economy is rapidly reinventing from manufacturing to services sectors, and employees are fast reinventing themselves as knowledge workers, there is an urgent need to focus on the development of the employees. 

One area that is fast catching up is leadership, and it mostly depends on emotional intelligence. Additionally, it calls for some degree of intelligence quotient.  

Hence, it is essential to blend both IQ and EQ proportionately to achieve leadership effectiveness and success.

Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D. is the Father of “Soft Leadership” and the Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is an International Leadership Guru with forty years of experience and the author of fifty books including the award-winning ‘See the Light in You’ URL: He is a C-Suite advisor and global keynote speaker. He brings a strategic eye and long-range vision given his multifaceted professional experience including military, teaching, training, research, consultancy, and philosophy. He is passionate about serving and making a difference in the lives of others. He is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine. He trains a new generation of leaders through leadership education and publications.

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