Emotional Intelligence – A Nice to Have or a Key Leadership Skill
By: Susan Ruhl
We hear it all the time: The importance of emotional intelligence. What is it exactly and isn’t it really just a “fluffy skill” that’s more about the feel good than any real business impact? As with most soft skills they are not just nice to haves nor are they fluffy. They have a direct impact on the bottom line and pretending they don’t is really, just, well, pretending. So what is emotional intelligence? Let’s start there.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. Typically, it includes emotional awareness, not only of yourself but also of others, the ability to not only harness emotions but apply them to tasks like problem solving and finally the ability to manage not only your emotions as well as the emotions of others.
Emotional intelligence is the basis for a variety of critical skills impacting most everything said and done each day. It is the biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership excellence.
“Of all the people we’ve studied at work, we’ve found that 90% of top performers are also high in emotional intelligence. On the flip side, just 20% of bottom performers are high in emotional intelligence. “(Emotional Intelligence 2.0)
Of course, there are examples of successful leaders who do not possess emotional intelligence but they are not the norm. While there are many studies surrounding this topic, let’s look at a smattering of the data surrounding people with a high degree of emotional intelligence. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence:
- Make more money: an average of $29,000 more per year than people with a low degree of emotional intelligence. The link between emotional intelligence and earnings is so clear that every point increase in emotional intelligence adds $1,300 to an annual salary.
- Deliver better results: leaders who scored above the median on emotional intelligence delivered $1.2 million more profit from their accounts than did other partners – a 139 percent incremental gain (Boyatzis, 1999).
- Sell more: On an annual basis, salespeople selected on the basis of emotional competence sold $91,370 more than other salespeople did, for a net revenue increase of $2,558,360. Salespeople selected on the basis of emotional competence also had 63% less turnover during the first year than those selected in the typical way (Spencer & Spencer, 1993; Spencer, McClelland, & Kelner, 1997).
When you look at the totality of the studies, it becomes clear that these findings hold true for people in all industries, at all levels, in every region of the world.
Here’s the beautiful thing: emotional intelligence can be developed.
According to Emotional Intelligence 2.0, the communication between your emotional and rational “brains” is the physical source of emotional intelligence. Using strategies to increase your emotional intelligence allows your brain to create new pathways and develop new behaviors that become second nature. How do we do that? Practice. Once you train your brain by repeatedly using new emotional intelligence strategies, emotionally intelligent behaviors become habits.