Guest Column | September 27, 2023

Unleashing Team Potential: The Power Of Emotional Intelligence In Leadership

By Jennifer King

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“If I had one piece of advice to give,” said investigator Thomas Cech, past president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), “It’s that although you’ve been hired for your scientific skills and research potential, your eventual success will depend heavily on your ability to guide, lead, and empower others to do their best work.” Skills like emotional intelligence (EI) are a major contributing trait for any aspiring leader and serve as a key factor in driving success across the board. From the key characteristics of EI to how the skills can contribute to an effective team, here’s how life science executives and their teammates can greatly benefit from the trait.

The Value Of EI For Science Executives

Emotional intelligence refers to an individual’s ability to “recognize, use, understand, and manage their emotions in a positive way,” explains PsychCentral. While expressing and controlling one’s own emotions is imperative as an executive, so is the ability to understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others — so much so that some experts suggest that EI is more important than IQ for success in life. Author and psychologist Daniel Goleman, for example, suggested that EQ (emotional intelligence quotient may be more important than IQ, according to his book, titled Emotional Intelligence. With that in mind, key signs and examples of EI include having an ability to accept and embrace change, accepting responsibility for mistakes, and having an awareness of both personal strengths and limitations. Having empathy and concern for others as well as showing sensitivity to the feelings of other individuals are additional signs of emotional intelligence.

From Effective Leadership To Successful Team Building

Emotional intelligence (EI) will be one of the top skills needed in business in 2025, according to projections from the World Economic Forum’s “Future of Jobs Survey 2020.” Regarding the application of emotional intelligence in business, Harvard Business School Online highlights the relevant skills that serve as crucial components of leadership, which can extend to benefit the team. Self-awareness, for example, involves having a clear understanding of one’s “strengths, limitations, emotions, beliefs, and motivations.” This will not only allow a good leader to build trust among the team but allows a leader to evolve in their own right as well. Empathy enables leaders to actively listen to employees, taking the time to understand wants and needs, and allows for more effective coaching. The Harvard Business School post also highlights motivation, self-regulation, and social skills — all of which further contribute to a good leader by allowing one to identify their emotions and understand those of others.

Research published in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education has proven that a “strong propensity” in emotional intelligence increases one’s ability to make sound decisions, build and sustain collaborative relationships, effectively manage stress, and cope (to a greater degree) with constant change. With that in mind, it’s imperative to take into account how these individual benefits can translate into building a stronger team.

Effective teamwork brings a wealth of advantages to the table. Teamwork leads to learning, can improve efficiency and productivity, and cultivates communication and strong work relationships, to highlight just a few. By having leaders with strong emotional intelligence abilities, employees can gain inspiration from a positive role model while reaping the benefits of an efficient and respectful workplace environment. For example, a leader with strong EI might encourage breaks and feedback among their team, demonstrate flexibility and good communication skills, and actively listen to what their teammates have to say whether it be work-related ideas or feedback or personal concerns. In turn, the team can benefit from a comfortable work environment that encourages communication, boundaries, and respect — thus elevating productivity and morale as a result.

Developing Valuable Skills

EI might sound like something that comes naturally to people, though it’s imperative to realize that the skill and how it’s applied in business can be developed and picked up on over time. While the Harvard Business School Online post suggests personal development of EI skills through activities such as journaling (which can help in regard to self-awareness, etc.), undergoing a 360-degree assessment (which involves soliciting feedback from managers/colleagues/peers) is another viable suggestion. Taking a course is another option for life science leaders seeking to develop their skills, with one Business Wire article highlighting an example by the name of “Working with Emotional Intelligence in the Pharmaceutical and Biopharma Industry Training Course.” The conference, which was added to Research And Market’s offerings, notes that by the end of the course you’ll be able to manage and work with people more effectively by understanding/respecting their emotions, understand key EI skills, be more adaptable to how others think and what perspectives they have, and practice several styles of influencing models.

Having a mentor is just one fantastic way that life science executives can develop emotional intelligence skills. In the business world, mentors have the potential to bring a variety of advantages to the table, including offering unbiased/unemotional guidance, providing a different viewpoint/perspective to solve problems, and making valuable connections within the industry. To highlight their value even further, 92% of small business entrepreneurs say that mentors had a direct impact on the growth of their business in its early years. A mentor who is also a leader can demonstrate EI skills as well, whether it’s taking the ideas of others into consideration during a meeting, emphasizing with a colleague who is having a bad day, or encouraging an atmosphere in which everyone feels comfortable expressing themselves. As a result, effective mentors can not only guide future leaders in the workplace but can strengthen a team as a whole. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mentoring in the workplace, connecting with a potential mentor can be done in a variety of ways, including via mentorship programs, meetups, or through personal networking.

EI is a key element of good leadership, thus making it an integral part of any efficient team within any industry. For life science executives, developing these skills through mentorship programs presents a viable solution for building a fantastic team from the ground up.