As a leader, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your success is all about your intelligence (IQ), technical skills, ability to make quick decisions and your charisma. However, emotional intelligence (EQ or EI) is just as important as these other qualities, if not more so.

Studies show that for workers who are considered to be star performance, 67% of their performance is attributed to EQ, and 33% to IQ. When it comes to leaders, it’s even more pronounced; 85% of what makes a leader a star performer is attributed to EQ, and only 15% to IQ (Goleman, Working with Emotional Intelligence).

In the words of Julius Sumner Miller (for those of us old enough to remember!), why is it so? Because emotional intelligence allows you to connect with people on a deeper level, to understand yours and their needs and motivations, and to build strong, lasting relationships that can withstand challenges and setbacks. And in the world of leadership, where you’re challenged to guide and inspire others, this kind of connection is absolutely essential.

What exactly is emotional intelligence, and how does it apply to leadership? Daniel Goleman, who brought emotional intelligence into modern leadership thinking, defines it as ‘the capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and others’.

There are four elements to emotional intelligence:

1. Self-Awareness:

Self-awareness involves understanding your values, and that when those values come under threat (your buttons being pushed) there is the potential to have an emotional response, or outburst. As a self-aware leader, you are able to recognise what sets off your emotions (the trigger), and the physical reaction that accompanies it. You’re also better able to identify your biases and blind spots.

2. Self-Management:

Once you’re aware of your values, triggers and emotional responses, the next step is to manage those emotions effectively and appropriately. This enables you to avoid the emotional outbursts that can come when our values come under threat (what Goleman calls the Amygdala Hijack, named after the amygdala, the part of the brain that engages us in fight or flight responses, and which sometimes hijacks our thinking process away from considered and reasoned responses, towards fight or flight outbursts).

3. Social Awareness:

The first two elements focus on your awareness and management of yourself. However, if you were only to focus on yourself, you’d become one of those self-absorbed, egocentric people who only ever think and talk about themselves, never considering those around them. Elements 1 and 2 are only half the story; you need to turn your attention to the world, and the people, around you.

In addition to understanding your own values, triggers and emotions, it is important to understand the values, triggers and emotions of others. A socially aware leader empathises with others, recognises their needs and motivations, and responds with empathy and care to their feelings and emotions. They’re also able to pick up on nonverbal cues and adjust their communication style accordingly.

4. Relationship Management:

Self-awareness, self-management and social awareness, when practised together, lead to the building and maintaining of strong, positive relationships. A leader with good relationship management skills can communicate effectively, resolve conflicts, and build trust and rapport with their team. They’re also able to inspire and motivate others, and create a culture of collaboration and support. This leads to improved performance for individuals, teams and organisations.

Demonstrating emotional intelligence allows you to better manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. You’re less likely to make impulsive or reactive decisions, instead taking a step back, analysing the situation, and making thoughtful and strategic decision based on all the available information.

When you’re able to connect with your team members on a deeper level, you build greater trust, and stronger relationships that can weather challenges and setbacks. You can then create a sense of shared purpose and vision that can drive your team to achieve greater results.