Rewind to 1970, Apollo 13 is 200,000 miles from Earth. Suddenly one of the space ship’s oxygen tanks explodes and heavily damages another in the process. On top of this, astronaut Jack Swigert notices a fuel pressure warning. All in all, the signs aren’t good for a safe return to Earth. It’s at this point that he calmly delivers his now immortal line, “Errr Houston, we have a problem….”
So what makes a great leader? Some say there’s a perfect formula: skills plus experience plus ambition. Whereas actually, it’s a group of invisible skills that separates the great leaders from the rest.
Communication, our ability to empathise, negotiate and control our emotions. These non-technical skills are the foundation for something very special: our emotional intelligence or EQ as it’s also known.
These qualities are the likely difference between the Apollo crew’s untimely demise in space that day and their safe return to Earth. They are also the qualities that are found in many of the world’s top leaders, and may just be the deciding factor between a good leader and a great one.
But you don’t have to be a NASA astronaut to demonstrate EQ. Everyone can rank high on emotional intelligence from new entry employees right through to your CEO. Here are three reasons why EQ is crucial in strong leadership:
- EQ enhances decision making.
Think back to the last time you were faced with a hard decision, with only a few minutes to carefully evaluate your options. How did you tackle it? Did you keep cool under pressure?
Staying calm and in control are the hallmarks of a great leader. Keeping your emotions in check minimises your own stress and the stress levels of those around you. It doesn’t mean you can’t share your frustration or feel scared. It means you know how to channel it.
- EQ helps you create and lead better teams.
We know that EQ strengthens leadership skills and has a positive effect on employee well-being. Now imagine an entire workplace with high emotional intelligence.
In 2015, Google took a closer look at what makes a team successful. They found that the most effective teams within their company could answer “yes” to two questions:
- Can we take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed if they don’t come off?
- Can we count on each other to deliver high quality work on time?
An emotionally intelligent leader can make a big impact, but an emotionally intelligent team can accomplish even more.
- EQ improves commercial performance.
The facts are simple: people would rather do business with people they like. In the sales industry, sales agents who exhibit higher rates of empathy and self-control made almost double the sales than agents with weaker EQ.
Empathy, the foundation of EQ, is the key to being a great leader, but also your organisation’s success. Listening with empathy is the most effective way to comprehend another person’s point of view.
We’re all human. No matter how strong your leadership skills are, there will be stressful days at work or situations outside of your control. They may not be as scary as those experienced by the Apollo crew in 1970 but by understanding and managing the emotions in yourself and others, you can create a better environment for others to work in, a better experience for your customers, and cultivate better leadership habits in your organisation.
Article by Richard Wills – Managing Director, Breckland Training Services