There’s no doubt the conditions for leadership have changed in today’s volatile, uncertain, constantly changing and ambiguous (VUCA) world. An essential capability for leadership success is emotional intelligence (EQ) - the capacity to recognize our own feelings and those of others, and the ability to regulate our own emotions and effectively manage relationships with others (Daniel Goleman).
A lot has been written about the power of emotional awareness to impact business results and to create the conditions for employees to be engaged in meaningful work. Goleman’s research shows that EQ has double the impact on business performance, compared to IQ. In fact, 67% of competencies essential for high performance are related to EQ and it is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining 58% of success. In times of constant change, when employees experience even more stress than usual, managing the emotional context of work becomes even more important.
The EQ capability of self-awareness is essential - being able to recognize our own emotions, especially under stress or change, being open to feedback from others and being open to understanding our impact on others. It makes sense then that demonstrating emotional awareness and flexibility when our everyday work environment is ambiguous, allows us to self-regulate or demonstrate higher levels of self-control while remaining open to new ideas and being empathetic to the experiences of others. The resulting ability to manage work relationships effectively makes it possible for everyone to do better work in times of ambiguity.
Managing the turbulence of VUCA business environments, allows a higher range of openness to relationships and new ideas, and the ability to consider multiple perspectives, experiences and possibilities – skills required for continuous improvement and large scale innovation. The very good news is that EQ can be learned through practice, by developing self and other awareness, and learning to self-regulate our own emotions to effectively manage our relationships with others.
In my coaching work with leaders, EQ practices build these capabilities as leaders learn to pay attention to emotional triggers, understand the assumptions they hold and ask for feedback from others about their impact. When under stress our key relationships can be compromised by emotional volatility or reactivity, and our openness to new or alternate perspectives and possibilities becomes limited or shut down as we revert to what we know. Curious leaders that build their EQ capabilities set a higher bar for business performance and innovation, setting the conditions for people to ask questions, test assumptions, create experiments that will inevitably fail and enable the organization to learn, even or especially in VUCA conditions.
Emotional Intelligence is the Essential Fuel for Innovation and perhaps the most important capability for leadership success.