The rise of EQ is interesting because it goes hand in hand with technological and sociological evolution. 20-30 years ago, leaders were sought (predominately) based on IQ because companies and teams did not have the systems and processes that could create the right level of control. Leaders were recruited to “run” the business, and were often appointed based on their expertise and their ability to set a clear path that others followed, to the letter. Times have now changed, Leaders now need to be experienced and cerebral, more aware of how to engage with people and to be agile in their thinking.

Any organisation will be dependent on how it manages Innovation, attracts Capital and fosters Talent. In my work as an Executive Search consultant in Life sciences, talent is very much the focus.

For today’s leaders, the only constant is change – scientific change, new regulations, price pressure, M&A, new masters, new therapies, consumerism and so on. Leaders need to be experienced and cerebral, more aware of how to engage with people and to be agile in their thinking.

Being able to cope with these pressures and turn them into positive, growth orientated thinking is highly valuable. Here I reflect on talented people and the benefits of developing better Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to make the most of every situation. I will also touch on how, for their part, organisations can be more aware of this aspect of our personalities so that they can attract holistic leaders to their organisations.

A simple concept

Of all the ways to test for EQ, the marshmallow test might be my favourite. You put a child in a room, set one marshmallow in front of her and explain that, if she’s able to wait 10 minutes before eating it, she’ll get an extra marshmallow to enjoy. Then you leave her alone. If the child can hold off, it means she is able to self-regulate — a key component of emotional intelligence. And, as psychologist Walter Mischel has famously shown, this translates into long-term benefits. Kids who delayed gratification at age four grew up to be more organised, efficient, dependable, resilient, and successful teenagers and adults.

So how do we assess EQ in working adults?

What appears to be simple in children is more complex in adults. First, understand what you should be measuring. There are two levels of emotional intelligence:  general traits and specific behaviours.  Traits are a person’s inherent disposition or tendency to be empathic and social and to notice and regulate their own emotions. Behaviours are these dispositions translated into action — what Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and others describe as competencies — and they are highly correlated to job performance for leaders. When assessing which candidates to hire, promote or develop, their traits are less relevant than behaviours.

To support our leaders to be change agile, we need to encourage our people to have a growth mindset

One of the most important elements of change agility is the ability to embrace change. Embracing change also means embracing failure and mistakes. However, for many people this is easier said than done. For most of us, our lives have been filled with teachers, parents and employers telling us it’s important to get things right, reinforcing the idea that mistakes are bad and to be avoided at all costs. We’ve been subjected to these thoughts for such an extensive period that it has become ingrained in the way many of us think.

Growth will come from new thinking

Instead, we must lead and encourage our employees to change these attitudes to risks and errors. People mirror the actions and behaviours of their leaders, so by adopting a growth mindset and being less hierarchical, leaders can help their people feel safe and allow them to learn and champion creativity and innovation. It is this openness that creates a more productive team and the potential for exponential growth for an organisation. Novartis CEO, Dr. Vasant Narasimhan, illustrated this perfectly last week at the One Young World conference in London when he urged future leaders to stay grounded as they were given more responsibility and authority. “Leadership is not a right, it’s not a rank — it’s something that you earn every single day,” he said. “The most powerful thing we have that can improve the world is leadership,” he said as he told the conference that Novartis was on a journey to “unboss” itself and become less hierarchical.

EQ Value proposition

From my own experience there are six main characteristics to consider: results orientation, customer impact, collaboration and influencing, developing organisational capability, team leadership, and change leadership. When evaluating projects with clients and assessing candidates for an executive leadership position I always keep the soft skills in focus. I have learned to spend more time upfront discussing what I call the EQ Value Proposition. Some clients and candidates may be intimidated by these questions but if you believe in a world where self-awareness, agility, foresight and continuous learning are key for success – then invest the time and be open to self-awareness. A consultant is only as good as the client allows him/her to be.

My favourite questions when evaluating EQ are;

  • Why should someone join and work for you?
  • If you seek “the unicorn” – how do you stack up and match this ambition?
  • What should you do more of and reduce?

Sources: The Times, Raconteur the future CEO, McKinsey Quarterly, LinkedIn Change Agility, HBR Emotional Intelligence, KPMG Pharma Outlook

Contact Thomas to discuss.

Thomas Schleimer Managing Partner, The RSA Group

D: +44 (0) 20 3872 8411

M: +44 (0) 7860 907 129

Bio | LinkedIn

Share this: