Through the years, intelligence quotient (IQ) has taken a backseat to emotional intelligence
(EQ) when it comes to project management and leadership. Having the ability to work with all types of people and form relationships both at work and in your everyday life can be seen as a super power. Not everybody inherits or is born with it, but can EQ be a learned skill?
Remember growing up and being socialized with other kids your age? Some kids naturally gravitated to each other, hitting it off immediately. For others, it took time to find the right mix and match of personalities before they found themselves on the jungle gym together. Then there were the kids who everyone flocked to and followed just because. There was some sort of gravitational pull to these kids because they gave off a sense of calm, confident reassurance that no matter what, playtime was going to be tons of fun. They didn't have to try to be cool, they just were.
As an adult I share similar experiences to when I was a kid, meeting other team members and seeing where I fit in. In the office, there are those colleagues that you know are uncomfortable in any type of social situation, let alone a big presentation to executives. Then there are other colleagues that others naturally follow. Are they trying hard to be leaders? I don't think so. Because the best leaders are authentic and genuine. They have an effortless way of inspiring others to contribute work to the greater good of the project.
Let's deep dive a bit further. Think about personality tests, like Myers-Briggs. The Myers–
Briggs Type Indicator is "an introspective self-report questionnaire indicating differing psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. The test attempts to assign four categories: introversion or extraversion, sensing or intuition, thinking or feeling, judging or perceiving". These tests exist to give us a sense of how we fit into the overall puzzle of a social circle or in a professional setting, your project team. Interestingly enough, while being an introvert or extrovert plays into your ability to interact in a social setting, those that are strong in EQ can be one or the other or both and you wouldn't even notice it. That's because in a professional setting, someone with high EQ can tailor their approach depending on the stakeholder, tone, or setting in a way that remains genuine and true to who they really are.
According to a recent poll I cast on LinkedIn, most folks believed that EQ was a quality that could be "learnt and improved upon at any age." To me, EQ is an inherent quality that either you have or you don't. Sure, you can learn and improve upon it at any age, but if you didn't have it to begin with then I wouldn't place my bets on being able to learn EQ from scratch.
Madsen, S. (2014). The power of project leadership: 7 ways to help you transform from project manager to project leader, p13.