22 Nov 2017 18:40 IST

IQ alone is never enough to be successful

A lot of leaders often derail because of their low emotional intelligence

EQ, or emotional quotient, is the measure of emotional intelligence in a person. Leadership studies have confirmed that leaders often derail not because they lack IQ, but EQ. A good number of my coaching assignments have confirmed this too. Leaders develop their business acumen, analytical skills and organisational awareness; they are even politically savvy. But often, they fail because they fall short on managing their emotions and on empathising with their colleagues.

The irony is that when a business leader lacks market awareness or analytical skills, they quickly become aware of it and seek help through education, training or even coaching. But when it comes to lacking emotional intelligence, you seldom come across people who show awareness and seek help.

It is usually through a 360 degree feedback that they come to know of it and are surprised when the evaluation is presented. Some even get into a denial mode and attempt to justify their behaviour as normal, required or worse, attribute their success to such behaviour.

Two real cases

Here are two extreme cases, where leaders’ weak emotional intelligence led to very senior colleagues leaving the company. They were so hurt by the callous indifference shown by their managers that they decided to quit the same day.

~ In the first case, during a weekly global call, the CEO found the sales head absent. He kept the rest of the leadership team on hold and, without muting the call, phoned the sales head and asked him to join the call. The sales head was shocked. A few hours before, he had informed the CEO that his father had passed away, and that he had just finished the funeral services.

The CEO’s response was very curt. He said since the sales head’s dad was dead and buried, what stopped him from joining the call? He even justified his behaviour by quoting his own case, where even when one of his relatives was undergoing a surgery, he made some customer calls and took care of business.

The conversation was heard by the entire leadership team. The sales leader was so upset with this behaviour that he put in his papers the very same day.

~ In the second case, the HR general manager called in his boss (VP of HR) to inform him that he had lost his wife. The VP-HR’s response was, “Well, we all lose our valuables like TV and refrigerator.” So much for emotional intelligence in the head of human resources!

The GM HR quit his job in the next few weeks, citing his boss’ behaviour as a reason.

Smaller signs

While the instances mentioned above show a complete blockage of emotions on the part of the leaders, we notice this in relatively smaller ways with many managers too.

Here are some tell-tales signs that you may be short on emotional intelligence:

~ You frequently lose your patience and conclude that others do not understand your point of view.

~ You crack jokes that seem to hurt others, and you think they are over-reacting.

~ You do not understand the concept of communicating in private and openly yell or scream.

~ You insist that your ideas be accepted all the time and consider them superior to others’.

~ You tend to blame everybody else for the department’s problems, instead of reflecting on your own complexity in it.

~ Instead of understanding others, you keep annoying them and are oblivious to the fact.

~ You consider yourself the best yardstick and measure everyone against it.

~ Your tolerance for mistakes is low.

~ You do not see others’ suffering, but treat it as normal.

~ You do not ask for opinions, because you think you are always right.

Early recognition

The above list is just an illustrative one. It is amazing how many of us get so busy with our work that we miss out on becoming emotionally intelligent. Star performers become shooting stars when they not just consciously hone their emotional intelligence, but also develop their skills at recognising how their behaviour (what they say and do) impacts others they work with.

In many cases, organisations do not pay attention to this aspect of leadership development. By the time the companies wake up, these leaders would have grown so much that they do not believe they need to change. In other words, their success blinds them to their weakness. And then, the search for an executive coach begins.

Having check-ins

As we begin our careers in an organisation, it makes sense to have regular ‘check-ins’ with our colleagues to know how they feel working with us and what aspects we need to change. This way, we pave way for growing into an emotionally intelligent leader.

The benefits are many: We get to hire and keep good, competent people; we increase happiness and engagement; we solve problems constructively. But most importantly, we become valuable.