The concept of Emotional Intelligence is relatively new to the scientific community and is still not fully researched. Until back in the 1990s Intelligence was only considered to be IQ, which refered to “… performing mental and physical tasks…” (Matthews, Roberts, & Zeidner, pg. 9 2011). After the 1990s other abilities such as “…understanding and managing emotions…” (Matthews et al., 2011), were introduced and defined the concept of Emotional Intelligence. As mentioned before, the concept is still being researched and different definitions have emerged in the last years. In fact, according to Sellie-Dosunmu (2016):
“There are several models for understanding emotional intelligence. Each offers its own set of competencies and behaviors, however, they are all similar in nature.” (pg. 1)
What is a common accepted feature, which distinguishes Emotional Intelligence from IQ, is the fact that it can actually be acquired, contrary to IQ which is “… fixed by birth” (Wall, 2007, pg. 2). This means that there are methods to improve someone’s Emotional Intelligence, which can be an asset, especially in the work environment. According to Wall (2007, pg. 4) to improve your Emotional Intelligence you will need to work on three pivotal aspects, which are reflection, skill development and skill application. These aspects should help you to improve your listening skills, pay attention to interactions and identify emotional states etc., which are all qualities required to be a successful leader, be it in politics, work environment or at home.
In a continuously changing work environment possessing Emotional Intelligence has become increasingly important as it normally defines the success of the teamwork, goals and ultimately of the company, which is why many authors focus on writing “handbooks” on how to improve someone’s Emotional Intelligence. The shift from IQ to EQ is not a coincidence as we started to look at Intelligence differently once we saw our work environment change. As a society, we became aware of Emotional Intelligence once we noted that the requirements for jobs shifted from a more technical and practical approach to a more creative approach. To understand why Emotional Intelligence is needed to be a good Leader, one must firstly define what Leadership means. A good definition is provided by Morton (2012) in her book “Everything you need to know about Intelligence and Leadership”:
“…leadership is a phenomenon whereby the leader attempts to influence the follower to achieve common goals. In the work setting, the leader attempts to motivate the follower to commitment, dedication, and attainment of organizational goals.” (pg 15)
To “…influence the follower…” (Morton, 2012 pg. 15) a leader needs to be aware of people’s needs and to be able to get the best out of them in order to achieve the final goal or objective. Possessing Emotional Intelligence has the ability to change the way we handle certain situations.
One example of such a situation is given in the work of Sterrett (2000), in which she describes a potential discussion between an employer and his employee. In this case, the employer uses the wrong approach to handle the situation by using the “boss technique” (Sterrett, 2000, pg.7). The employee is forced to adhere reluctantly to the bosses wishes, which is already a bad basis to approach a problem and will likely lead to more conflict in the future. This is a classic example of low Emotional Intelligence, which is more common at the workplace than it seems. Sterrett (2000) further elaborates that the boss should have been aware of the special situation they were in and that he should have handled it differently. Returning to the leadership definition given by Morton it is clear that in this case the boss didn´t meet the requirements needed to be a good leader as he didn´t motivate, but instead forced his employee to complete a certain task.
In conclusion, this goes to show that being aware of your surroundings and being engaged in a positive way, changes completely the approach of an employee to a certain task. Leaders should be always critical of themselves and reflect how their actions affect the work environment. A good leader therefore distinguishes himself by being socially aware, in order to know when and how to approach someone, who might not be performing as well. In today’s world, leaders cannot lack the ability to be emotional intelligent as it is a key feature to achieve to success.