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Intelligence is an important trait in any leader – but in business, a leader is nothing unless they can combine that intelligence with the ability to assemble a great team of people who can work together. A leader can have all of the book smarts in the world, but they will never be truly effective unless they can work side by side with others to accomplish great things. The key to great leadership lies in combining the fundamental characteristics of both emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ) and cognitive intelligence or intelligence quotient (IQ).

EQ vs. IQ

The theory of EQ dates back at least to Wayne Payne’s 1985 doctoral dissertation, titled, “A Study of Emotion: Developing Emotional Intelligence.” EQ is defined as the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. It demonstrates the ability to identify, evaluate, control and express one’s own emotions and to perceive and assess the emotions of others. Those who have high levels of EQ can use emotions to facilitate thinking and understand emotional meanings.

The more commonly known IQ dates back to 1883, and it relates directly to intellectual pursuits like the ability to learn, understand, and apply information. IQ covers logical reasoning, word comprehension, and math skills. One’s IQ score is derived from standardized assessments designed to test “intelligence.” People with higher IQ over EQ can think in abstracts and connect two or more seemingly disparate items more easily.

There is quite a bit of debate about the relative value of EQ versus IQ, but psychologist Daniel Goleman put it best when he said, “IQ will get you through school, whereas EQ will get you through life.” According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, the greatest leaders have high levels of EQ and thus they are able to use their talents and intelligence to get the job done while also possessing people skills that inspire teamwork in an organic way.

Below are three ways to build up and use your emotional intelligence to help you and your team work better together:

1. Practice Self-Awareness

To improve and use EQ in the workplace, a leader should begin by acknowledging their personal feelings and understanding the root of their emotions. By becoming more aware of their own words, actions, and moods (including anger or frustration), a leader can better focus on their strengths instead of their weaknesses and relay a message of positivity to their team members.

mountains2. Prioritize Collaboration

Be intentional about encouraging a “team attitude.” Help set coworkers up for success by empowering them to creatively troubleshoot and brainstorm ideas around all team projects. A leader must combine their own emotional intelligence with the individual strengths of their fellow team members. Effective EQ will allow a leader to inspire others through open collaboration, which in turn will give birth to innovation.

3. Show Compassion

A leader with strong EQ can keep their fingers on the pulse of the attitudes and the emotions of the people around them. That allows them to identify the days and times when team members are more receptive and engaged, so they can push their teams harder during those times. A high level of EQ allows a leader to follow the ebb and flow of team personalities and balance assigned work with consideration for the personal preferences and characteristics of team members.

Every leader is different, and there are roles for those whose strengths favor either EQ or IQ – or both. Wherever you fall on the scale, it’s important to remember that if you want to build and lead a great team, EQ must come into play. Using EQ to your advantage will set up the team dynamics necessary for a successful outcome of any business venture or project.

Are you ready for the challenge? What kind of smart are you?

Marshall Martin is a strategy and performance coach with Petra Coach. Contact Marshall at marshall@petracoach.com.



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