Why is EQ important at work

Why EQ is more important than IQ

As remote and hybrid working options become the global norm, a need for more emotionally intelligent practices and leaders emerges. Experts explain how leaders who cultivate these skills deliver better results.

In less than three years, the workplace as we know it has forever changed, giving way to more flexible and remote working modalities. However, a rise in remote work brings with it new needs for employees and leaders, namely a stronger focus on their collective emotional intelligence. 

Dr Amy Bradley, author and professor of leadership and management, believes that hybrid working has, in some cases, blurred the boundaries between work and home lives. Not having a clear distinction between both areas of life has negative consequences including burnout, demotivation to perform and less efficient work practices. 

“Up to 50% of the working population now describe themselves as overextended at work. Overwork and overwhelm have become a way of life and now so many of us are working in a hybrid way, the ability to be emotionally intelligent seems to have found its time.”

According to reports, researchers at Stanford, Harvard and other institutions found that there are currently four times more job postings that make mention of remote working possibilities since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the number of remote workers multiplies, emotional intelligence has become one of the top ten skills required for a successful workplace candidate. A recent report from the World Economic Forum on the future of jobs points out that a trend to rely more heavily on automated and artificial intelligence systems has created a greater need for EQ in the workplace – since these skills are uniquely human.

You can feel the organisations where emotional intelligence is high and is a priority because in those organisations people trust each other.

Dr Amy Bradley, Author and Professor of Leadership and Management

Guiding our behaviour at work

With fewer face-to-face interactions, understanding a colleague’s body language or general disposition becomes more challenging. Dr Bradley explains, “EQ is about the ability to monitor our emotions, our feelings and those of others to help guide our behaviours at work. Research has shown that emotional intelligence is twice as important as technical skills or IQ when it comes to effectiveness at work.”

Emotional intelligence (EQ) as defined by Dr. Daniel Goleman, a leader in this field, is a person's ability to manage their feelings so that they are expressed appropriately and effectively. According to this definition, emotional intelligence has five key areas: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.

Professor Roger Delves, advisory board member of Indigo Sails and professor of leadership at the Hult International Business School endorses and practices Dr Goleman’s theory within his syllabus.

“Goleman’s work speaks to people regardless of their cultural background. Whether I’m teaching in big business schools in Mumbai or elsewhere, when I present them with that paradigm and talk about EQ using those terms, it seems to me that people have an immediate grasp of its capabilities.”

Dr Bradley and Professor Delves understand the power of embodying and projecting emotional intelligence within leadership practices and the wider workplace. From helping employees become more adaptable to change to developing inspiring and engaging leaders – the benefits of EQ are exponential.  

Cultivating emotional intelligence 

“You can feel the organisations where emotional intelligence is high and is a priority because in those organisations people trust each other. They understand each other and there is evidence of collaboration. There is evidence of positive influence, people feeling empowered.” Dr Bradley observes. 

What we have to do to make sure that leaders understand what doing right means.

Roger Delves, Professor of leadership, Hult International Business School

Wärtsilä actively advocates for a more emotionally intelligent workplace through workshops and programmes. In 2022, the company introduced the GROW programme, which focuses on ensuring psychological safety and nurturing a feedback culture for all employees. 

In the GROW programme, approximately 320 people from across the organisation participated in interactive workshops in 2022 and reflected together in peer learning sessions. There was an emphasis on building coaching and mentoring capabilities to cultivate an open culture where personal development and growth were valued. 

“The most successful leaders are great coaches.” Dr Bradley explains that these leaders are able to give constructive feedback and practice deep listening.

A guiding light

Professionals like Dr Amy Bradley and Professor Delves as well as the GROW programme, place individual purpose at the heart of their teachings. 

“What I’m trying to do is help leaders to have a north star, a guiding light.” Professor Delves explains. “Something that helps them to know what to do. What it comes down to is this: do right. I don’t care about the situation, the circumstances, the timelines, the pressures – do right. What we have to do to make sure that leaders understand what doing right means.”

In a world of heightened pressures, pace and distractions, knowing how to ‘do right’ might not always feel intuitive. However, both Dr Bradley and Professor Delves clarify that specific skill sets and competencies such as influence, mentoring, conflict management, teamwork and empathy can be taught and brought into any organisation using the appropriate emotional intelligence model. 

“The ability to be able to be attuned to what’s going on for people, particularly when we’re working remotely is important. At the end of the day, people do forget words but they know how their manager makes them feel and they know when they feel genuinely cared about.” Dr Bradley concludes. 

Written by
Mafalda Evans Lopes Guimarães
Contributing Writer at Spoon Agency