Only one in 10 people possess the talent to manage, according to Gallup. While it can be tough to find those leaders, the companies that do are rather well off. On average, talented managers contribute about 48% higher profit to their companies than average managers.

What separates those groups? Leadership development consultants Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman researched the most important leadership skills for success. In their survey of more than 300,000 business leaders, the authors asked respondents to rank the top four competencies from a list of 16 leadership skills. Inc. listed the top 10 traits or skills for successful leaders.

  1. Inspires and motivates others*
  2. Displays high integrity and honesty*
  3. Solves problems and analyzes issues
  4. Drives for results
  5. Communicates powerfully and prolifically*
  6. Builds relationships*
  7. Displays technical or professional expertise
  8. Displays a strategic perspective
  9. Develops others*
  10. Innovates

Note how the asterisks represent skills that easily fall under emotional intelligence in leadership. Half of the top skills are connected to this single, powerful concept. Emotional intelligence leadership is necessary for managers and executives.

Understanding Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Psychologist Howard Gardner simply defined emotional intelligence as “the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them.” People who excel in their emotional intelligence can be easy to recognize. They “know themselves very well and are also able to sense the emotions of others,” according to the book “Knowledge Solutions.” “They are affable, resilient and optimistic.”

The theory behind emotional intelligence has led to a framework where five domains describe basic personal and social competencies.

  • Self-awareness relates to recognizing one’s emotions and feelings. Key questions surround whether people understand how they feel and what their strengths and limits are.
  • Self-regulation relates to controlling certain traits. Key questions surround whether people are trustworthy, in control of their impulses, flexible, innovative and responsible.
  • Self-motivation relates to internal drive. Key questions surround whether people can meet a standard of excellence, align to specific goals, act on opportunities and remain optimistic despite setbacks.
  • Social awareness relates to empathy. Key questions surround whether people can sense, anticipate or understand their concerns, needs and abilities.
  • Social skills relate to areas where relationships can excel. Key questions surround whether people can build bonds, collaborate, team build, lead, communicate and influence others.

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Those skills are important in nearly every area of workplace performance. For instance, a survey from TalentSmart tested emotional intelligence alongside 33 other workplace skills, and found that emotional intelligence was the best predictor of performance. It explained 58% of success in all types of jobs. Additionally, 90% of top performers were high in emotional intelligence, while only 20% of bottom performers were high in emotional intelligence.

Applying emotional intelligence to leadership is quite natural. As managers and other business leaders are responsible for overseeing employees, developing their skills and maximizing their performance, emotions play a crucial role. Emotional intelligence covers several critical skills that businesses and teams need to function, such as communication, conflict resolution, pursuing excellence and more.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Surprisingly, emotional intelligence is a relatively new theory. It was first popularized when author and journalist Daniel Goleman published a book in 1995 called “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.” That book and his subsequent research determined that emotional intelligence accounted for 67% of the abilities necessary for superior leadership performance.

The expert in emotional intelligence has made it clear how foundational the topic is to business. “If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far,” Goleman said. The science behind emotional intelligence in business has confirmed how important the topic is. In fact, Goleman wrote on this personal website that the biggest surprise to him surrounding emotional intelligence is its impact in the business world. He quoted a popular statement from The Harvard Business Review, which referred to emotional intelligence as a “ground-breaking, paradigm-shattering idea that is one of the most influential business ideas of the decade.”

Emotional intelligence can determine business success. Likewise, its absence can lead to basic, preventable failures. “Many of my clients often come to me frustrated with their managers, ready to quit because of the poor relationship they have with their boss,” according to entrepreneur and career coach Ashley Stahl in Forbes. “When I listen to what’s going on, it’s usually that these leaders aren’t demonstrating high levels of emotional intelligence.”

Fortunately, emotional intelligence can be improved. Stahl offered five ways to develop emotional intelligence.

  1. Manage your negative emotions. Take a step back when your emotions can get the best of you. Try not to react instinctively when you’re likely to regret something.
  2. Be mindful of your vocabulary. Enhance your communication so that you articulate what’s happening instead of venting. That will help you solve the problem instead of exacerbating it.
  3. Practice empathy. Seeing issues how others see them can help you gain valuable perspective. Once you can connect with their feelings, you can connect with them more meaningfully.
  4. Know your stressors. Think of habits that stress you out. Remove them and you’ll impact your happiness and performance.
  5. Bounce back from adversity. How you react to challenges will determine whether you thrive or not. Work on being more optimistic and seeing what you can learn from different situations.

Improving your emotional intelligence helps you become a better leader. Pursue both goals with an online master’s in organizational leadership that teaches you how to build a collaborative performance culture in the workplace, communicate strategic visions, analyze complex environments, and make difficult decisions as a leader.

The program from St. Ambrose University will prepare you for success in a variety of career fields, including healthcare, education, public relations, human resources, and more. It takes place fully online, allowing you the freedom to study when and where you want, at your own pace. More than 95% of graduates from the program consider the degree a factor in their achievements, while 45% have been promoted and 60% have taken a new job they considered an advancement in their careers.