During his keynote address at the recent CEO Summit, John Wilson, CEO of the CEO Global Network, ran through the traits you need to be a great business leader. “Twice as important as IQ at your level,” he told the garhered CEOs “is emotional intelligence.”
Emotional intelligence (or EQ)—the ability to read other people and identify what they’re feeling—has less to do with smarts and more to do with gut. Business owners who could once tell if someone was being honest, or if someone respected them, can sometimes tune those instincts out as they get surrounded by more yes-men and subordinates.
“What’s the CEO’s disease?” asked Wilson. “All your jokes are funny. Worse than that, all your ideas are good—at least, that’s what everyone will tell you.”
According to recent research conducted by Sebastien Brion, a professor at business school IESE, powerful people tend to overestimate the strength of their bonds with subordinates. The Economist summarized Brion’s findings about powerful people in a recent story: “Somehow, on reaching the corner office, CEO’s lose the knack of reading subtle cues in others’ behaviour.” Brion found that when a boss tells a joke to an employee, he tends to be unsure whether the resulting smile is real or fake.
So, what can you do to up your emotional intelligence?
Start with some sort of 360-degree feedback to get a sense of what you employees really think of you (just be careful to go about it the right way).
Psychologist and former New York Times contributor Daniel Goleman writes a useful blog on emotional intelligence, and has written books with advice on how to build up your EQ.
Remember that you may have more emotional smarts than you think, you may just have forgotten how to tap into those instincts.
And you might consider cutting back on the coffee. That feeling you get when you’ve had too much coffee? Research shows it’s because your blood pressure and heart rate are up, which can lead to rapid shallow breathing, depriving the brain of the oxygen it needs to keep your thinking calm and rational.