Scenario 1: I was part of the assessor panel at a development centre for CXO successors and the primary observer for a really energetic, intelligent & articulate female participant. Like most development centres, there were a variety of exercises – she did well in some like the business plan presentation and not too well in others like managing conflict with a peer or giving feedback to a team member. What really struck me about her was that every time I asked her how she was ‘feeling’; she would respond with what she was ‘thinking’.
As leaders we have to be in touch with our feelings and emotions aren’t a weakness. If used wisely; they help us connect, engage and build relationships. So leaders need to pay more attention to them; practice observing how they feel and also how they act when they are experiencing a certain emotion.
Scenario 2: A recently hired Head of Function in one of my previous companies stormed into my room and asked me “why don’t they (her peers) listen to me? What I am recommending is going to benefit the company?” She was very, very intelligent and the recommendations she was making were going to significantly improve business outcomes for the Company.
Each organization is different; each role is different and each boss is different. And success is very contextual. Especially in a new setting; the best thing you can do is acknowledge that you need to learn and really, really listen & observe so that you can understand and if required, adapt. Also don’t underestimate the power of relationships and organizational politics -knowing who are your key stakeholders and influencers; what works with whom is crucial to success.
Scenario 3: We were working in very, very tight timelines for a key project and one of our business leaders was frozen. He wouldn’t move till he had each and every single data point in front of him before he could take a decision. In any case this was a punt and we would never have all the data we needed. Some of his peers were getting irritated – why doesn’t he just take a call?
As we grow into more senior roles; we have to learn to deal with more complexity and ambiguity. Everything is not black and white – there are grey areas and we may assume that with the right information we will make the right decision. But sometimes we don’t have all the data and we make choices; we lead with our gut. And gut instincts stem from actual experiences — they are not merely whimsical decisions.
These are very real scenarios. As an HR professional, I have witnessed some supremely intelligent leaders struggle in a variety of situations – when they join a new organization; take on a new or expanded role; face new challenges. But sometimes they seem to miss things that might be obvious to you or to others.
So do leaders with low EQs struggle with/ fail at everything? No. I have always believed that IQ and EQ are not opposing abilities but complementing ones; both are important and have a significant impact on leadership success. Interestingly, a recent DDI study on High Resolution Leadership clarifies that there are some specific leadership skills that are more impacted by IQ and some by EQ.
‘Business and financial acumen’ are highly dependent on IQ
‘Leading teams’ and ‘cultivating networks’ are impacted by EQ.
‘Compelling communication’ is influenced pretty much equally by both elements.
The 2 surprises for me were ‘influence’ and ‘driving execution’.
Influence is more impacted by IQ – implying that having a strong reasoning / business case for doing something is more crucial than using your interpersonal skills to get it done. The study highlights that EQ plays a stronger role in driving execution – getting the team aligned; helping them understand their role and staying focused on deliverables.
As the DDI study says “leaders deficient in either will be imbalanced and at severe risk of failure”
About Shilpa Vaid
Shilpa Vaid has over 16 years of experience and has worked with organizations like Bharti AXA General Insurance, MetLife, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company Limited, Aviva Life Insurance & Arthur Andersen. Shilpa Vaid holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA), HR from International Management Institute – IMI.