- Emotional intelligence is overtaking technical ability in importance as a key leadership requirement.
- Few people possess sufficient emotional intelligence to realize the disparity between who they are and how they feel and the external reality they choose to present.
- The digital world will distance us from our authentic emotions if we’re not careful.
- It’s vital to develop emotional intelligence among the younger generation. Likewise, we should learn what we truly value and not simply what we “like” and “dislike” in a distorted virtual reality.
Today in this age of Instagram, many of us try to be pixel perfect. The problem is, life simply isn’t pixel perfect, and neither are we.
Yet, over the last few decades we’ve grown to believe that the only way to be perfect, namely successful, recognized and loved is by creating your own brand. Meanwhile, the notion of personal fulfillment has been pushed to the fore: the idea that people can achieve happiness, success and respect at work and in relationships and therefore lead a “perfect life”.
The university of life
We seem to think that the skills required to achieve those goals can be picked up outside of education. Society has a huge collective regard for education; it’s just that people are selective about what we can be educated in. We accept that we need training for example in using words, numbers, or in business. For what about being educated in our own emotional functioning? For example, we might need to learn (rather than just know) how to avoid sulking, how to get on with a colleague, or how to choose a partner.
Therefore, it’s high time to learn a new skillset. The technical skills that helped secure your first promotion might not guarantee you your next. If you aspire to be in a leadership role, there’s an emotional element you need to consider. It’s what helps you successfully coach teams, manage stress, deliver feedback, and collaborate with others. In fact, emotional skills, otherwise known as emotional intelligence, account for nearly 90 percent of what sets high performers apart from peers with similar technical skills and knowledge.
Essentially, the human factor is becoming more and more important. Investors and business partners look primarily at the team to predict the success/failure of a start-up or company, and then their own product. In other words, the jockey is more important than the horse.
And the most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of emotional intelligence. IQ and technical skills still matter, but nowadays they’re entry-level requirements for leaders.
Mind the gap
However, very few people are aware of or use their emotional skills. In fact most of life is about “minding the gap”:
- The gap between who we are and what we want to be
- The gap in communication levels between people
- The gap between what we say and how we act externally and what we believe and want to achieve internally
In short: a gap between a dreamworld and reality!
The most contented people tend to be those who have narrowed this gap and accept that life is imperfect, and often incomprehensible. They are happy within themselves, and don’t need constant external validation, and enjoy strong relationships with other people. They are empathetic and constantly growing (often making mistakes as they do) and honest enough to show their vulnerability, also at work.
And then there are those of us who try to express their emotions by clicking, liking or deleting on social media. But how should we, and especially the younger generation, understand and interpret emotions via such a reduced and limited human interaction?
Today it is easy to find our minds colonized by algorithmic streams. I recommend watching the “Social Dilemma” on Netflix to see how susceptible we are to self-love or rage sharing. A majority of the feeds are there to make you feel great about yourself and your world view and have nothing to do with the reality around you!
Show your emotions to build up trust
So, what should we do to thrive in a modern world, where honesty, reliability and authenticity are in short supply? My advice is to show your emotions – to others and to yourself. It’s important to remember that the human impact in a digitally world is still essential to build trust in long lasting relationships.
The good news is that emotional intelligence is a set of skills that you can improve with practice, but you have to understand them first:
- You can’t control your emotions. You can only react to them.
- Try to motivate yourself and immerse yourself fully in an activity.
- Learn to read other peoples’ emotions to create healthier relationships.
Teach the young how to feel
We need to start with the younger generation and teach them at home and at school about their greatest attribute: their emotional skills. Emotions are the gatekeepers of cognition, motivation, and attention. Being attuned to and helping all students develop strong social and emotional skills, such as the ability to manage their emotions, be self-aware, and collaborate with others, is at the heart of teaching. Now, as schools around the world are operating virtually and people are social distancing, the need to focus on kids’ well being is becoming even more critical. There are plenty of digital tools which support social and emotional learning: educational games, group communication platforms and co-creation challenges help students develop social and emotional skills.
As for ourselves, we first have to be clear about what we truly value and that our emotions are an essential part of that. That’s where we should direct our emotional energy. Knowing what we truly value—not just “like” or “dislike” in a virtual world —is probably the most emotionally intelligent skill we can develop.
Christian Muche is an internationally recognized executive and business strategist operating at the intersection of digital, marketing, technology and event industries with an extensive track record for brands like AOL, YAHOO and FIFA. Christian is the co-founding partner of WUNDERGUARD and the initiator behind this new boutique consulting firm. In this role, Christian creates successful brands for design, position and support companies, as well as individual global executives all over the world.
He is also the co-founder and brain behind DMEXCO, one of the leading global digital marketing event platforms. With his decentralized team in Europe, he ran the day-to-day business of DMEXCO for nearly ten years till 2018. In 2019, Christian launched D:PULSE – the innovative global boutique-style conference show.
For more than 13 years Christian Muche has lived with his family in New Zealand, holds a German as well as Kiwi passport and enjoys various outdoor sports, including mountain biking, trekking and diving.