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Emotional Intelligence: More Important Than IQ

By: Katelyn Six, Section Editor for Block Beat (six1@uic.edu)

As the first female to be appointed Chief Executive Officer of General Motors – and the first female to head any major automotive manufacturer for that matter – Mary Barra has clearly broken through a thick glass ceiling as far as feminist advancements are concerned. So, what makes her such a force to be reckoned with? While Barra has a number of invaluable qualities that led to her selection for the position, there is one key aspect that enabled her to successfully climb the ladder in her industry: her high IQ…well, Emotional IQ that is.

This type of intelligence is all-too-often overlooked and neglected, and only recently is being targeted as an almost mandatory attribute when climbing the corporate ladder or first breaking into the workforce. But before we can follow in Barra’s footsteps and take full advantage of this attribute, we must explore what it really means to have a this kind of intellect.

What is Emotional Intelligence (EI)?

Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, divulged to the Huffington Post the five pieces required to fit into this high EI puzzle: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, social skills and empathy. To make these components more tangible, let’s dive into some examples of how these five elements play out in the real world.

Adaptability and Resourcefulness

What makes Barra such a compelling example of how emotional IQ can domino into an awe-inspiring career is her “learning agility.” Gary Burnison, Chief Executive Officer at Korn/Ferry International describes this trait as “the willingness and ability to learn from experience and then apply those lessons to succeed in new situations.” In a word, adaptability. GM’s CEO started her career in cars as an engineering intern and slowly clamored up the ranks to achieve a variety of positions from running the assembly plant to human resources (operative word is variety).

Empathy and Curiosity

Though Barra’s technical expertise and Stanford education are impressive, it is not either one of these factors alone that has made her a dynamic executive. Rather, as Burnison aptly underlines, it was her stint in human resources after the company fell into bankruptcy that made her an ideal candidate. Having a high emotional intelligence allowed Barra to manage “the most precious asset of the company, people, at the most trying of times.” As Carolyn Gregoire of the Huffington Post explains, Highly Empathetic People (HEPs), are “those who are extremely attuned to the needs and feelings of others, and act in a way that is sensitive to those needs.” They possess curiosity, which is a key quality to attaining exceptional levels of emotional intelligence.

Hence, a keen ability to relate emotionally, connect socially and empathize with people is something that does more than just make you a likeable friend and co-worker; moreover, it enables workers to solve problems more effectively through collaboration. It fosters feelings of camaraderie because, as the saying goes, two heads are better than one. Being able to pay attention to not just the facts of the situation, but also being attuned to others and being able to switch gears to adapt at a moment’s notice is key to landing a job and also working in any business environment.

This all sounds fine and dandy…for Mary Barra. But how can you develop your own sky-high emotional IQ?

Be resilient – being able to bounce back from failure and take success in stride is crucial to becoming highly emotionally intellectual.
Be self-aware – in other words, know thyself. Recognizing your best qualities, as well as your pitfalls, is consistent with Gregoire’s assertion that “an emotionally intelligent person learns to identify their areas of strength and weakness, and analyze how to work most effectively within this framework.” The ticket to a high EQ lies in the ability to optimize the skills you’re confident in and use them to your advantage, while continuing to improve upon less favorable traits.
Don’t be moody – An even-keeled temper is one of the most important factors in determining high emotional acuteness. Managing your mood means you don’t hide from your emotions, but rather acknowledge them. Instead, get to the bottom of your sadness or your frustration. No one ever solved a problem by ignoring it, so be honest with yourself about what your feeling. For that’s the only way to improve and become exceedingly emotionally astute.
Don’t cower – Think about a person you look up to. Does he or she avoid confrontation at all costs, or stand up and fight? While it’s important to maintain a cool head in any situation, it’s not cool to hide your true beliefs and emotions. Stand up for what you feel passionate about, but don’t lose your composure while doing so. Those with high emotional intelligence are calm, cool, and collected, yes , but they are not push-overs.
Be funny – humor helps you regulate your emotions by placing you in a positive mindset. The ability to laugh at yourself and to keep smiling in times of strife is a telling indicator of an emotionally intelligent individual.

How do you fare on the Emotional Intelligence scale? Take this quiz to find out: What’s your EQ? 

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