CFO Nico Esterhuizen: The impact of emotional intelligence on effective leadership


Nico explains how you can use emotional intelligence for effective professional and personal leadership.

In a previous article, we discussed the four internal life dimensions essential for effective personal leadership, as shown in the diagram below. Your four internal life dimensions need your constant attention and a well-crafted plan to ensure personal leadership mastery, which is critical to attaining effective professional leadership.

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The four internal life dimensions

The emotional life dimension, also known as emotional intelligence (EQ), refers to the ability to identify and manage your own and others’ emotions. Research by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) highlighted seven professional competencies or quotients that tomorrow's accountants will need to progress their careers and add the most value for employers and clients. One of these is EQ, which the ACCA further defines as the ability to identify one’s own emotions and those of others, harness and apply them to tasks, and regulate and manage them.

To better understand EQ and its importance in terms of leadership, one must first understand the individual components, known as the competencies of EQ. The ACCA provides a list of five competencies and additional descriptions of how each competency should ideally appear. The five competencies are:

EQ Competency: The capacity to:
Growth mindset Feel comfortable in your ability to overcome obstacles, challenge your own identity and extend yourself into new areas. 
Self knowledge Recognise the feelings and motivations that underlie and drive your actions.
Perspective-talking Be adaptable, using your personal learning and see things from the viewpoint of others.
Empathy Respond warmly in ways that make others feel heard and included.
Influence Compellingly affect, inspire and encourage everyone to do well.

ACCA’s five EQ competencies
The EQ competencies of a growth-mindset and perspective-taking support the notion that EQ is not a fixed-competency that cannot be improved or changed. However, every accountant must be aware that it requires dedicated attention and time to change or improve one’s EQ.

Professor of Business Psychology at UCL, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, suggests five steps to develop EQ. These steps are to:

  • Turn self-deception into self-awareness;
  • Turn self-focus into other-focus;
  • Be more rewarding to deal with;
  • Control your temper tantrums; and
  • Display humility, even if it’s (feels) fake.

Read more: Your mindset determines your leadership style

If you identify a shortcoming in any of the respective competencies of EQ, be aware that change and improvement are possible, provided enough effort is exerted, and structure is applied to that effort.

EQ’s value has also been identified in non-work-related areas. Higher EQ has been associated with success in relationships, mental and physical health, and happiness, says Prof. Chamorro-Premuzic.

Emotions are not a switch, but rather a life companion. They remain part of us, largely define us and influence our work and personal lives. As the world is moving into the fourth industrial revolution, there’s an increased need to be even more aware of our emotions and the value that EQ could play in a new and unknown world. The world requires leaders who can make sense of the abstract and unknown, and emotions could be the key to achieve that, says Jeniifer George, professor of management and psychology at Rice University, Texas.

The effective leader should also study and monitor the emotions of others. A better understanding of others’ emotions provides leaders with many clues on achieving specific organisational outcomes by adopting an individualistic approach to a colleague, staff member or manager.

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