Improve your Effectiveness as a Leader by Understanding the Neurobiology of EQ

A 2009 study on emotional intelligence, The neural bases of key competencies of emotional intelligence, found a strong connection between general intelligence and behavior. Those who score high on general intelligence tests usually also score higher on emotional intelligence tests, possibly since both skills activate the same parts of the brain.

In today’s post, we’re going to examine this research in the context of how leaders can get more out of their teams and create conditions for better and more tailored communication throughout an organization.
The research, led by Aron K. Barbey, a neuroscience professor at the University of Illinois, examined 152 Vietnam veterans with brain injuries. Barbey and his colleagues assessed how brain damage, to specific areas of the brain affected both emotional and general intelligence.

Barbey previously led a study that reviewed the connection between basic cognitive functions and brain injuries in a different and larger group of Vietnam veterans. Both studies assessed cognitive functional differences between those with and those without brain injuries.

These studies have several implications for business leaders:

  1. Emotional intelligence can accurately predict professional success. When recruiting and promoting, evaluate employees not just for IQ and job skills but also for emotional intelligence, especially for projects that involve interacting with others and demand clear communication and effective troubleshooting.
  1. People generally don’t have a sense of their emotional intelligence skills. We all grew up in a society that values IQ and quantitative performance on tests like the SATs. But EQ is much more mysterious. Scientists are just beginning to understand what parts of the brain are involved in establishing EQ and what the relationship between EQ and IQ actually is and how it can be improved. The bottom line: pay attention to social and emotional drivers in yourself and your team members: don’t assume you’ll do so automatically, because you haven’t been trained to do so.
  1. Job performance, earnings and emotional intelligence are all closely intertwined. Employees with high EQs do better at meeting deadlines and cooperating with their peers. They focus on outcomes, and they can metabolize criticism better.
  1. Employees with high EQs deal well with change. They’ll be more likely to go with the flow when you need to implement a new procedure, product or management paradigm.
  1. Those with high EQs tend to be more familiar with their strengths and weaknesses, and they can better communicate their comfort level with different tasks. Provide your team members with an environment that optimizes their strengths.

It’s one thing to understand, in theory that focusing on social and emotional factors can improve your team’s productivity and happiness at the office. But how can you apply theory (and the cutting edge science we’ve discussed) to practice?

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