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ATD Blog

EQ as a Leadership Predictor

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Emotional intelligence is our ability to identify and manage our own emotions, as well as recognize that of others and groups. It requires effective communication between the rational and emotive centers of our brain; it represents the path between feeling and reason. The brain science surrounding EQ is quite powerful and compelling. Studies have found:

  • EQ is a required competency for effective leaders.
  • EQ is the #1 predictor of professional success and personal excellence.
  • EQ affects organizational profitability and performance.

"Gifted leadership occurs where heart and head—feeling and thought—meet," states EQ expert Daniel Goleman. As he explains in his book, Primal Leadership, Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence, the four skills that together make up emotional intelligence include: self-awareness and self-management, which are about personal competence; and social awareness and relationship management, which are about social competence.

We all have beliefs, biases, and assumptions. What’s more, our perceptions can differ from person to person, and these perceptions influence our thoughts as well as impact our decisions. How aware are we of what we see, think, and feel? Do we practice empathy to understand what others see, think, and feel? Do we not only understand but embrace differences. Ultimately, how well do we see and understand the impact of our thoughts on others and take into consideration others thoughts and needs?

In order to manage our emotions effectively, we have to identify them, be able to assess them accurately, understand the root cause, and ultimately control them appropriately. Knowing what the triggers are that drive our emotions as well as understanding triggers of those around us can truly heighten our ability to communicate more effectively. Conflict is inevitable and actually a positive because it usually leads to progress when handled well. Being able to read the people dynamics, assess the needs involved and manage the situation effectively requires high EQ levels.

Leadership begins and ends with inner strength requiring the ability to understand ourselves very well while consistently learning, growing and developing. In addition to enhancing self-awareness, strong leaders are adaptable to their surroundings, transparent, exhibit positive energy and practice emotional self-control. Effective leaders are empathetic, service-oriented and organizationally aware of their surroundings, reading people and cues well. Lastly, they are relationship builders, inspiring others, influencing effectively, coaches, people developers, team collaborators and able to manage conflict as well as change. All of these are dimensions of emotional intelligence.


Leaders are life-long learners always looking to further develop their knowledge and skills. In fact, there are a number of assessments that help us to determine our level of emotional intelligence allowing us to identify elements of strength as well as areas for improvement including the highly regarded BAR-ON EQ-i self-assessment and 360 tool. There are also several resources available on this topic including the book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.

Developing our EQ will be an on-going effort requiring us to push out of our comfort zone. Here are some tips to help build our EQ as we continue to build our leadership capabilities:

  • Learn what your triggers are and how they impact your emotions.
  • Ask for feedback from others often and openly.
  • Be an active listener, step back and look at things objectively.
  • Practice deep breathing, relax body, keep a clear mind.
  • Focus on other people's perspectives and show interest in others.
  • Take time to learn the norms of the organizational culture.
  • Carefully read the dynamics of each situation, the people and your surroundings.
  • Nurture relationships; acknowledge others' needs and feelings.
  • Manage expectations appropriately.
  • Welcome the difficult conversations and give direct, constructive feedback.

Building emotional intelligence is not only a strong predictor of effective leadership but can contribute to greater productivity, performance, and ultimately profitability for all. What level of EQ do you and your leaders possess? Invest in developing your staff and your leadership potential at all levels of your organization. Remember, individuals do not have to be in a leadership role to be a leader. Unleash leadership skills in all!

For a deeper dive into this topic, join me at ATD 2018 International Conference & Expo for the session: Emotional Intelligence as a Leadership Predictor.

About the Author

Rita Balian Allen is the president of Rita B. Allen Associates, a national career management firm specializing in executive coaching, leadership development, management training, and career development. She is a lecturer at Boston-area universities, a sought-after speaker and presenter, and the author of numerous articles, blog posts, and the book Personal Branding and Marketing Yourself: The Three Ps Marketing Technique as a Guide to Career Empowerment. Rita was voted one of the top 10 executive coaches by the Boston Women's Business Journal.

1 Comment
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Excellent article! Your tips are similar to what Google found in their research into effective teams. All of it is EQ-based; psychological safety being the most important factor contributing to team's effectiveness. Leaders ability then to effectively connect on a real, human emotional level leads to the greater productivity and performance results you're talking about. Their own research supported it as well.
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