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Emotional Intelligence (EQ): What it is and How it Works

Intelligence is often measured in the amount of knowledge an individual retains. However, there are other forms of intelligence, such as emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ is the ability to interact, connect, and empathize with others, which is beneficial for leaders as this aptitude can be used for identifying and managing emotions on both a team and individual level. Emotions can play a big role in the way people communicate and connect with one another, and the ability to adapt and respond to someone’s specific emotions can assist in communicating with that person. With a high EQ, leaders are able to take a feeling or intention and convert it into action, a crucial asset for helping others connect and accomplish goals faster.

How Emotional Intelligence is Developed

Much like other forms of intelligence, the human brain develops and learns EQ throughout the course of one’s life. Typically, a leader must experience an event where others are demonstrating a specific kind of emotion and learn from the outcome. The mind then adapts to these changes, learns what outcomes may come from a certain reaction, and adjusts accordingly. With EQ, the subtle changes in a person’s emotional state may not always be apparent, but as leaders learn to pinpoint different emotional variables, such as tone of voice, body movement, eye contact and other basic movements, they can better identify and manage situations. For example, a team leader may be providing one of their peers with constructive feedback, yet in doing so they quickly realize that the individual appears to be taking feedback as personal criticism. Upon this realization, leaders with a high EQ can quickly pivot into a more assuring tone of voice, calming a situation that could have generated negative emotions.

How EQ Can Be Evaluated

A person’s emotional intelligence can be readily evaluated with standardized tests. These tests provide a variety of questions based on familiar circumstances. Often, questions are multiple-choice with several viable options that focus on how an individual reacts to a situation. The specially designed questions help uncover how a person’s brain works, what their motivation is and how they choose to interact with others, all of which help suggest a person’s ability to interact with others in the real world and what they are more likely to do in set situations. Leaders, in particular, should be able to identify these traits within themselves, as well as within those they are leading. While these tests and examinations do not outline how to improve EQ, leaders can review results and determine what they need to improve or change in order to boost their personal emotional intelligence levels.

Why EQ Is Important for Leaders

Simply put, those in leadership positions need to be able to effectively communicate with others. Some employees may anger easily, while others may struggle to work with others, and leaders with a high EQ may be able to more swiftly work through these situations in a calm and delicate manner. Thus, developing a high EQ not only helps leaders excel, but it can also go a long way in improving the overall production of their employees. Likewise, EQ can help leaders expand their management and decision-making skills such as:

  • Identifying latent disruptive emotions or behaviors
  • Broadening empathy to better understand various perspectives
  • Developing discipline to diminish negative emotions or distractions
  • Communicating more effectively

While EQ is learned over time, some leaders are better equipped to adapt their current EQ. The leaders that are able to continually develop their own EQ levels through study and practice are better equipped to make decisions in a more intelligent manner. In addition, EQ can help leaders improve the communication within their teams, which can lead to improved production and results from workers and others who look towards their leader for the guidance needed to move past difficult situations.

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As the nation’s oldest private military college, Norwich University has been a leader in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow its students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities.

Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Leadership program is designed to help you demonstrate the skills and knowledge needed to lead teams and inspire progress, while also growing your career. The program is practical and pertinent, allowing students to apply leadership concepts immediately to their careers.


How Emotional Intelligence Became a Key Leadership Skill, Harvard Business Review

5 Aspects of Emotional Intelligence Required for Effective Leadership, Inc.

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