March 24, 2021

Studies say “emotionally intelligent” people are generally more successful – and even make more money – than their peers. So what is “emotional intelligence,” or “emotional quotient – EQ,” and how can you use it to best engage your team?

During a keynote session at the NBAA GO Leadership Summit, Jen Shirkani, an emotional intelligence expert, said EQ is the ability to:

  • Know who you are, including your strengths and weaknesses, motivations and even your moods. High self-awareness leads to high emotional intelligence.
  • Have good social and situational awareness. Know your audience and be able to read a room.
  • Respond appropriately for that audience or situation.

The challenges of the past year revealed leaders’ emotional intelligence – or lack thereof. Consider your own performance over the last year. Did you demonstrate high EQ or are there areas in which you can improve?

Experts say individuals aren’t born with a fixed level of emotional intelligence, nor is EQ determined by gender. Individuals can actually raise their EQ level by seeking and responding to feedback, taking advantage of educational opportunities and using a peer coach or accountability colleague.

“Emotional intelligence contributes a lot to your success [and] to your organization’s success and it’s something that can be learned,” said leadership thought expert Dr. J.P. Pawliw-Fry.

Joe Barber, CAM, of Clay Lacy and moderator of the keynote, shared an example of a line pilot being promoted to management role, which changes the camaraderie previously experienced as a line pilot, but that experience is still fresh.

In fact, mid-level managers tend to have the highest levels of emotional intelligence, possibly because these individuals receive feedback from those who work for them and those at the top. Ironically, highest level managers often have the lowest EQ.

“People literally need feedback,” said Pawliw-Fry, explaining that’s why professional athletes still need coaches. “Most people don’t perform without it.”

“As we climb in our careers, the feedback faucet will close on you,” added Shirkani.

Managers and leaders must seek out feedback, whether from anonymous surveys, outside perspectives or intentional discussions with employees, and then must respond to that feedback, making appropriate adjustments to their actions.

Pawliw-Fry also urged attendees to be “aggressive learners” in what is the “golden age of learning,” with almost limitless access to free or inexpensive online resources.

“Think about how you show up under times of pressure,” he said, as these are the situations which define true leaders.