As the world evolves at an unprecedented pace, leaders are faced with unique challenges and opportunities. And to succeed in this hyper-changing environment, Emotional Intelligence in leadership is key.
In this episode of Hireside Chats, we delve into the transformative role of emotional intelligence (EQ) in modern leadership. EQ is not just a buzzword; it’s a game-changer that shapes how we lead, connect, and thrive in both our personal and professional lives. Our guest speaker, Andrea Stone, Founder and Leadership Coach, Stone Leadership, talks about how blending thinking skills and feeling skills help leaders make smarter decisions.
Read the blog version of this engaging conversation, with plenty of tips and takeaways to be better prepared to lead in today’s modern landscape. Or listen to the complete podcast here
Sat J: Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is more than just a buzzword. It’s a game changer in the way we lead, connect, and thrive in our personal and professional lives. Previous generations of leaders led in a world where change unfolded at a slow pace. Leaders of today lead organizations in the present that change every minute and into a future that is almost unimaginable.
Leaders can no longer be directors – they must be visionaries! In this hyper-changing world, leaders need to be innovative, proactive, agile, and resilient as they consider a whole new way of communicating and connecting with their own people. Emotional intelligence lies at the core of this leadership transformation, with experts stating that it should be one of the most important skills a leader must have.
When we talk about leadership qualities, emotional intelligence is becoming more and more significant for leaders worldwide. And as you mentioned in your research paper, as the world grows less predictable and more complex, the need for emotional intelligence increases. Recognizing this, The World Economic Forum has identified emotional intelligence as one of the top 10 skills for 2025.
Why don’t you tell us a little about your experience as a leadership coach, particularly in the realm of emotional intelligence? And why are so many people talking about EI, especially in the leadership context?
Andrea: First, lets define emotional intelligence, or EI, or we could even say EQ – Emotional Quotient. A really simple definition is – using your thinking and feeling skills to make better decisions. We feel, we think, that combining these helps us make better decisions.
The sudden interest in emotional intelligence is because – if we reflect on why some people are super successful, is it because they are brilliant or intellectual or is there more to it?
Daniel Goleman has been researching this area on emotions and emotional intelligence. He wrote a bestseller in 1995 called ‘EQ: Why It May Matter More Than IQ,’ and that kind of got people interested. It gave terminology to this capacity to think and feel and
make smarter decisions. I was given that book in 1995, I remember receiving it and thinking, hmm, what are you trying to tell me? You don’t think I’m emotionally intelligent? – And since then, I agree that’s increased.
Now, why is it important for leadership? It’s because leaders are leading people. People are all emotional. They are far more hardwired to react emotionally than to trigger their thinking skills. We as people react based on emotions. Once we think we can have a more considered response. So leaders are dealing with people. So that ability to tune into people to understand how people are feeling, how to inspire people with a vision? It is absolutely essential to know how to motivate people, to do the research, to do the analysis. To understand
what motivates people requires you to tune into people. And so as a leader, you’re leading people, you’ve got to have emotional intelligence. And there’s a lot of research on this, that the star performers at senior leadership levels have higher EQ or the traits that they display are EQ traits predominantly.
Sat J: why do you think EQ or EI is even more relevant and important during times which are volatile and highly unpredictable like the times that we are going through today?
Andrea Stone: We are living it pretty stressful times, we’ve had a tumultuous few years, We’ve had the pandemic, there’s been increasing uncertainty in many parts of the world with economic downturn. So, the level of uncertainty is high. And uncertainty, typically, in many people, triggers stress reactions. It’s hard to deal with our emotions and make good decisions when we’re feeling stressed. I think that’s one of the key reasons that emotional intelligence has come more to the forefront recently in the past few years is because we’re dealing with so much uncertainty. We’re dealing with so much change, around 70 percent of change initiatives, even if they’re intended, fail.
And it’s generally not due to the logical thinking skills of leaders, it is more often due to the people – do they feel involved in that change? Are they ready for that change? How to inspire people to move forward in uncertain times?
So I think in periods of uncertainty, that’s what leaders have to deal with— different emotions, different states of readiness to deal with uncertainty, different appetites for change, and we have to change a lot in uncertain times. You have to change and then change again when things don’t work out and that takes a lot of energy, and emotions are essentially energy.
Sat J: In a complex and competitive world, emotional intelligence is pretty much non-negotiable for leaders to possess. And like you said, it helps leaders inspire and connect better with people.
What do you think are some of the components of emotional intelligence that one must possess to be an effective leader? And in your experience as a leadership and executive
coach, how do you communicate the importance of EI? Also, can you share with us some instances where leaders have exhibited high emotional intelligence or emotional quotient, what specific behaviors did they demonstrate?
Andrea Stone: Broadly, there are quite a few competencies that are required for emotional intelligence. Let’s narrow it down to three areas – One, How well do you know yourself? How well do you know what you’re feeling right now? Or how well could you articulate some of the feelings you’ve been feeling recently? Why is that important? It’s important because if we can name something, we can deal with it. And emotions have, have data in them. So if I can name something I’m feeling like – I’m feeling a bit scared, I’m feeling a bit anxious, then the question is why?
So do I know what I’m feeling? Do I know how I typically respond or react to situations that challenge me. So that’s the – What am I feeling? What am I doing? aspect of emotional intelligence which is Self-Awareness or observing yourself. And if you can do that, you can very often look at other people and think – what they might be going through or what’s happening with them? So it’s being curious about what’s going on within me, how I typically react in a situation. What might be going on with other people? So that observance, that curiosity is important. And that often conflicts with – I’ve got to do this, I’ve got this task I’ve got to do. I’ve got to get this done. The data and the emotions can help you decide, is this really the best use of my time? Why am I feeling so frustrated if I’m continuously supporting some of the colleagues who should really be doing this by themselves? There’s data there. What am I going to do with that data? So that self-awareness is absolutely critical.
Next is what other people see —the Self-Management. How do you respond in challenging situations? How do you typically respond to maybe situations that other people wouldn’t find challenging? How you manage a difference of opinion or a conflict? Do you hide information? Or do you have a constructive conversation? Do you prep yourself to show up to handle the other person, to understand that other person, what they need to hear in that situation, and still move ahead and give the message that you need to give. So that self-management – how you react or respond intentionally is key. Leaders have to be upbeat to uplift others. Even in those times when things don’t turn out the way we expect them to. How can we move ahead? How we engage other people to take on challenges that have emerged? Another really important part of self-management is how do we manage what motivates us? Are we driven by other people’s goals? Are we driven by what’s important to us, what gives meaning to us? I think that’s really critical.
The third point, I call it Self-Leadership – what’s your purpose here? If you’re a leader, why are you a leader? The bigger picture of what you want to change. Not necessarily the short term goals, but that kind of bigger value or that bigger goal that you have in life. For example, for me, it’s helping other people realize their full potential. So connecting to that and leading yourself in alignment with that sense of purpose is important.
So there’s three broad things to think about. There are lots of other competencies that come in – like resilience in uncertain times, we don’t know what’s going to work we have to bounce forward, bounce back, in those situations and plenty more.
Sat J: Going through your research paper on the EQ paradox in India, which states that – the higher a person’s EQ, the higher a person’s score on success. Based on this I have a few questions: One Is EQ truly measurable? Can you put some numbers and metricize those? Since emotions are tough to measure, it’s interesting when you can actually score people based on their emotional quotient.
And second – how does EQ contribute to success in all realms of your life, not necessarily professional alone, your personal life, your social life and so on.
Andrea Stone: I work with an organization called Six Seconds -I do a lot of work with EQ assessments – these are scientific validated tools. Daniel Goleman, who I mentioned earlier, also has assessments. This is a variety of assessments that are scientifically validated.
Now, when you’re responding to any kind of self-report assessment, you’ve got to be genuine, then you’ll get meaningful data bytes. So yes, scientifically validated assessments are helpful because you see how you are on the different parameters we mentioned. And the really important thing is, you might score low, but where are you high? Where are you not high? And how does that show up?
And the research that I’ve done with Six Seconds, which I was really curious in India— because we had a lot of anecdotal evidence of Indians being super strong thinkers, very, very logical, know what to do in a situation, can analyze the situation, know what’s the best way forward, but do not necessarily act on that insight.
With any decision, there are emotions involved, for example – I’m need to speak up in a meeting, but I’m surrounded by senior people, I might become nervous, I might just hold back, I might think they already know this, so I don’t speak up because I’m worried and I’m a bit anxious. I don’t want to look silly in front of all these senior leaders. So I don’t follow through.
We don’t handle our emotions so well in India. We have got the thinking power we know what’s important. I do actually need to share this point, but then navigating those emotions that come along with that decision can be challenging. And so that’s the paradox – I’ve got this thinking power, now to apply it to what I’m feeling, I’m feeling worried. Why are you feeling worried? Because I’m not sure if the other people will agree with this. They may belittle me, so we have all, we go into this overthinking, over analysis, and then we don’t speak up, or we get so frustrated we blurt it out, and it’s not effectively presented.
So I think that is the great EQ paradox in India, and it’s almost a tragedy that if I’ve got all this thinking power, why am I not acknowledging that I’m feeling something here? Let me just use our analytical power to work out what it is and how I can move forward. So we backed that up with research, over 550 people responded to six seconds, scientifically validated assessment, and we got that insight and it’s confirmed. Again super high score on logical thinking, thinking things through. Much, much lower score on well, I’m feeling this, how do I deal with these emotions? And kind of getting stuck with the emotional aspect of things. I’ve had some leaders say to me, I don’t have emotions. I think what they mean is I am not emotional.
So there’s a big difference. We all have emotions. But we don’t all show those emotions. Emotionally showing those emotions. And it can work well to show emotions in some situations. It cannot work well to show emotions in some situations. That’s part of emotional intelligence. Which emotions do I show, to what degree, and with what purpose and intent? And which do I kind of keep to myself and work through? And I’m going to respond with using that insight at a later time.
Sat J: And just a follow-up question, the times are tough and I can tell you, we work with a lot of customers, we work with a lot of leaders and these are very stressful times. If you can share, how do leaders bounce forward from tough situations, you know, things may have not gone the way they wanted, the employee morale is down, people are looking forward to the leader to bounce forward and inspire them and motivate them. But it’s tough, there’s no cookie cutter approach or there is no set of rules to follow to suddenly start inspiring and motivating people. So in such circumstance, how does one use one’s emotional intelligence, emotional quotient to help inspire people, especially, during these tough times?
Andrea: First of all, as a leader, how do I manage my energy? So you asked earlier about success. And success has multiple components. One of which is, how’s my wellbeing? How’s my sense of balance in life? Am I feeling healthy? Am I getting me time? So leaders often sacrifice that even though logically they know that’s not going to be productive medium long term. I need to have the me time. I need to get my eight hours sleep a night, but they can sacrifice that. So first of all, think about four aspects of success:
One is the well-being. How are you taking care of yourself? What’s the quality of your relationships? Close personal relationships, your broader
network of people you can tap into. What’s the quality of your relationships? How much you’re investing in those?
And then other two aspects are really what you’re achieving and how satisfied are you in those achievements? Because like you said in stressful times you may be achieving a lot, but you’re just not enjoying it. You’re not satisfied with what you’re doing. So taking time to think through that. Or you may not be achieving, in which case, what’s the root cause of that? Let’s just take a moment. Why am I not achieving? Do I have the resources? Am I focused on the right goal? And the other aspect is really about your effectiveness, your ability to influence and make decisions. So all of these are very important for success in life, right?
So in stressful times, how do leaders bounce back? They have to look after themselves. Who are they turning to for support? Often leaders, feel, I’ve got to know it all, I’ve got to bear all this on my shoulders, I’ve got to make the decision. So yeah, ultimately, you do have to make the decision, but who’s involved in supporting that decision? Who have you got as your support mechanism around you? It could be your colleagues, it could be people outside your organization, it could be family and friends, but where’s your support system to help you bounce back? How well do you know your people? How engaged are you with your people? Do you know what motivates them? And it’s I think that leadership is a gift that keeps giving. You think you’ve mastered something, you think you’ve got insight into your team, and then something changes, right? The dynamic changes. A new team member comes, someone goes through a crisis personally, what motivates them is quite different. So knowing the dynamics of your team is a challenge as well. But it’s absolutely essential as a leader because you’re dealing with people. Once you know that you can work out how best to motivate them. And people often need a mix? They need the kind of big town hall where you’re speaking to them all where you’re talking about what we’re doing, where you’re encouraging people, where you’re recognizing people. They also need that one to one time, that personal connect or the small group discussions where their voices are heard. Because people want to feel belonging. They want to feel close to other people. So taking time to, to know your people is really essential. And that helps them bounce back, that fuels them.
Sat J: For those leaders who lack emotional intelligence or those working towards developing their emotional intelligence, what guidance would you give them as a good starting point?
Andrea Stone: This would depend on the leader you’re talking to. So first of all I’m assuming the leader wants to invest in improving their emotional intelligence. And we know that emotional intelligence is a learnable skill. It’s not fixed at all. If we practice, we improve. If we practice empathy and standing in others shoes trying to understand how they’re feeling, we improve. So it’s an absolutely a learnable skill. I think one thing that leaders really value is observable evidence— evidence that they can relate to. So I’ll share one story because it just illustrates my kind of assumption and then the leader’s assumption of what was important. So I was working with a leader, a really successful person, managing thousands of people. And the team loved him because he made really good decisions. He’s very fair, no nonsense, straight talker. And then one day I said, you know, how are you when you’re on the floor, when you’re walking amongst your people? How are you? He really didn’t understand that question. He said well, usually I’m in my office. I’m not usually on the floor, you know with everyone. I said, well, yes, but when you go on the floor how are you? And he said, well, when I’m on the floor, I’m just going from A to B. So it was a task. If I need to go and speak to X, I just walk to X. It’s
almost like I’ve got my head down, that’s where I’m going, end of story. And that really made me laugh, because he hadn’t thought that there’s hundreds of people watching you as you walk, on the floor, and they’re observing everything you do. You’re giving out signals the whole time. Is that a great opportunity to communicate things are good, I’m smiling, you know, and exude that energy of, “we’re doing well, we’re going to do even better.” But he hadn’t thought of it as an opportunity to communicate. He’s not talking to people, but you know, smiling, making eye contact going from A to B, but at the same time, connecting with people. So I hope that illustrates to some extent you know, have a conversation. Are they vested in building that awareness that will impact their leadership?
Sat J: Thanks for that very practical tip, from now on I’ll be conscious of that when I walk the floor. Andrea, are there any tools that leaders can leverage to enhance their emotional intelligence and leadership skills, especially in today’s digital work environment?
Andrea: Yes there are – one is just place a mirror above your screen if you do a lot of screen work and, and see what you look like, see what the emotions are in your face. If you’re on a zoom, what do you look like? So check in— “Is my face showing what I’m feeling? Do I want to alter my face to make people feel a bit more comfortable?”
There’s another that is really effective – journaling. Some people have a, quite a strong response to that— negative. They don’t want to write things down. But the process of writing takes things out of your head and puts it on paper so it frees up space— it helps you analyze, so just writing down, or just checking in. It’s before a meeting where you’re not feeling comfortable, a really good technique is, ‘when- then’ or when the boss asks me this tough question, then I’m going to respond like this, or when someone’s taking too much air time, then I’m politely going to say, could we hear from some other voices?
So the when- then technique is really good. I mean if you’re talking about gadgets nowadays we have the kind of what’s your heart rate and that gives you information, too. Are you feeling too stressed? Are you feeling too anxious? What’s fuelling that heart rate? So just get a bit curious about that.
And I think the other really important thing is, you can sit at your desk for hours. Get up, take breaks, refuel, do a bit of mini exercise, do a micro meditation. Just switch off for a bit because too often hours go by without rejuvenating, replenishing your energy. So, I think they are some tools and techniques I use to just bring it down, those intense emotions.
Sat J: Thanks for those very interesting, insights and before we wrap up, Andrea, I wanted to, ask a customary rapid fire set of questions. We’re looking for very quick and crisp responses from you. So let’s begin.
Can you share a moment of leadership that had an impact on you?
Andrea: Yes, someone giving me very straight feedback in a way that I took on board. So that showed great emotional intelligence and knowing how to give me feedback so that I would appreciate it.
A sure shot approach or step towards enhancing one’s emotional intelligence?
Andrea: Observe yourself. When are you not at your best and what’s caused you not to be at your best? And work on it.
And what is the most common misconception about emotional intelligence and how do you address it?
Andrea: The emotions are just feelings, but emotions have data in them. Emotions aren’t good or bad, they’re just emotions that just trying to help you. Try and understand why they’ve shown up.
Your own personal hack to effectively manage emotions and especially high-pressure situations.
Andrea: So I used to say breathe, hit the pause button. Now I just say… close your mouth. Because that’s very practical.
A book or an article on the topic that you would recommend as a must-read.
Andrea: I love a six second state of the heart report. It’s a global report on EQ around the world, cut in different ways by industry, by country, by competence. And it’s produced every two years by six seconds. So I always look forward to getting that.
From understanding the fundamentals of EQ to practical tips and advice this episode journeyed deep into the heart of leadership excellence.
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