Nothing in a Millennial CEO’s arsenal is more important than their EQ. If she wants to lead teams where the average age could well be double hers, then the ability to control, evaluate and express emotions is critical. Everyone, especially those on the older end of the spectrum often have opinions that are deep set in the psyche, prejudices that they have spent years sometimes decades suppressing. Perhaps they are not a fan of a female boss, or you remind them too much of their son or daughter so find it hard to take instruction, and goodness knows you certainly can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Thankfully that’s where EQ comes into its own. Unlike IQ which is focused on problem-solving in the visual/spatial realm, fluid reasoning and working memory amongst other things, EQ focuses on traits such as being able to relate to others, empathy, controlling one’s own emotions, and interpreting and constructively reacting to other people’s emotions.
Imagine the scenario where you have a team meeting and the age split is roughly half in their early twenties and half in their late 30’s with 1 or 2 in their early 50’s, and of course you the Millennial CEO. You are all there to discuss the direction of the company over the coming 5 years. You have an agenda you want to promote but like all good CEO’s you ask for input first so that you don’t just get a whole bunch of “Yes Men” agreeing with what you say. By letting others speak first you will hear genuine dissenting points of view, which will feed the discussion and perhaps broaden your views or indeed narrow your focus. The point is, it’s a good thing. But who out of the group is most likely to have an opinion closest to yours? IQ might suggest you consider the generation gap and the ambition of youth and conservative nature that comes with age. While that may be right, EQ will tell you to listen and focus on what is said and not on who is saying it. It’s quite possible that there are quite specific reasons why your 25-year old account manager Sophie is insisting that you stick with the traditional market, perhaps she has just bought her first house and is concerned about her future, while James your 52-year old and hitherto fiscally conservative CFO thinks it’s maybe time to spread the company’s wings a bit, is that because his kids have now left university and he is now ready to take a swing at life. All these things could be factors in the responses you receive in our scenario and it is only with a strong EQ that you will learn to interpret those responses. IQ will get you most of the way but if you want to be a great CEO you need to develop your EQ as well after all business is predominantly about people and people are full of emotion.
But what if you are one of those inventor CEO’s, a Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg in the making, and you have a very high IQ, but a pitifully underdeveloped EQ. Well, there is only one thing for it or two to be less precise; get yourself an outgoing people centred surrogate to represent you at those meetings, or throw yourself in at the deep end and learn to become more emotionally intuitive. Processes and rules are great but they are not terribly good when it comes to understanding the depth of human interaction. So, to become great you need to practice. Ask why someone “feels” a certain way, or what “made them say” something, look for the reasons behind the words that can so often shield the emotion. Once you have mastered that skill you will see how useful it is in not only helping you get to where you want to go but to make sure your staff are with you because they want to be, not because they were dragged along by an autocratic leader.