Why you don't have to be a shark to be successful - emotional intelligence as a skill.
We are often told, particularly within the western world, that success is a mindset, and within this mindset, comes a specific set of values and patterns of behavior. Winners, we are told, are ruthless. They are strong, competitive, self-centered, and machiavellian. They have their own goals and their own ideals, and will stop at nothing to achieve their needs. Winners, we are told, are like sharks. As for the losers; they're more like their prey.
While there is arguably a nugget of truth buried within this way of thinking, there is also a whole lot wrong with this attitude. While attributes like self-assurance, tenacity, and resilience are key to finding success in today's ultra-competitive environment, this doesn't mean you need to be a shark, and it certainly doesn't mean you should be treating others as prey.
To the contrary, sensitivity, emotional intelligence, and vulnerability are not weaknesses. In actuality, they are key skills that allow us all to navigate our increasingly complex social environment. As such, If you want to succeed in anything, especially business, you should be embracing emotional intelligence, and taking pride in your ability to tune into others needs.
Don't believe me? Well, here are four ways in which emotional intelligence can help you succeed in the business world.
As an emotionally intelligent person, you are more aware of yourself, and what makes you tick. You’re more aware of your strengths, your weaknesses and your goals. More important than this, however, you’re more aware of why you behave the way you do.
While this may not seem obvious in a world that seems to celebrate big and often ‘brash’ personalities, a heightened sense of self-reflection is indeed paramount to success. Think of this skill a bit like a coach for a major sports team. A team could have all the star players they want, but if they keep getting injured and underperforming without any feedback as to ‘why’ , said sports team will be doomed to run head first into the same old mistakes.
Likewise, in business, you need to be able to diagnose your own shortcomings, and identify areas in which you need to improve. Naturally, this isn't about ‘beating yourself up’. Instead, this is about understanding the true value of ‘humility’, and being ready to learn and develop at every opportunity.
2. Social Skills:
In addition to self-awareness, EQ also gives you a vital boost in understanding those around you.
Again, in business, this is hugely important. Regardless of sector, no individual ever truly operates alone. As a businessperson, you’re constantly interacting with other people, be this your colleagues, your employees, or your clients.
Suffice to say, within this environment, social skills and effective communication are essential. In order to obtain these skills, however, you need to be sensitive. You need to be capable of understanding other people’s motivations, their anxieties, their goals, and ultimately, their emotions. This is especially the case if you want to build long lasting and effective relationships.
3. Empathic creativity:
Empathy isn't just a social skill, but a creative one as well.
In business, what defines a great idea ultimately comes down to how it will be received by your target audience. Whether you work in marketing, product design or HR, your ‘performance’ hinges on your ability to cultivate an actionable understanding of your customers' needs.
Within this paradigm, great ideas are ones that reach their audiences in an authentic, impactful, and fundamentally considerate way. This is to say they are informed by a deep understanding of what their target audience truly wants.
Achieving this is no easy task. However, by being emotionally intelligent, and by possessing a genuine respect for your target audience, you are a massive step closer to fulfilling people's needs on a much deeper level.
4. Emotional intelligent leadership:
Last but not least, emotional intelligence is crucial to great leadership.
At an increasingly rapid rate, we are seeing the old guard of so-called ‘alpha males’ and ‘strong men' fall out of favor for more sympathetic and considerate leadership styles. Why? Because no one wants to work under a shark, and if they can help it, they'll go somewhere where they feel more valued, and where they know their voice will be heard. On the inverse of this, emotionally intelligent leaders are now being celebrated and sought after, especially as businesses look to diversify both their workplace and their audience.
Ultimately, emotionally intelligent leaders are now breaking ground because they combine all of the skills we’ve talked about so far. They’re self-aware, and are ready to accept feedback. They’re pro-social, and instinctively know how to motivate their staff. Finally, they’re empathic creatives, and can use their heightened sensitivity to solve problems and generate new ideas. Try getting a shark to do that!
A final note on emotional intelligence
So those were our four key areas in which EQ (emotional intelligence) can help you excel in the workplace.
As a final note on this topic, however, it’s also important to highlight that emotional intelligence is as much a skill, as it is an attribute. Like all things, some people will find being sensitive to the needs of others easy, while many will struggle, despite all their best intentions.
If you are facing these challenges, do not give up! No one expects you to excel at this from the offset, especially in a world where many of us still experience stigma around emotional availability and empathy. EQ is a skill that develops over time. As long as you appreciate its value, and work towards improving yourself in this area, you will see progress and results.
If you’re interested in learning more about this, we recommend taking a look at the book The Hidden Agenda, where I delve deeper into the power of emotional intelligence, and how it can be applied to the art of pitching, networking, creativity and more.