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Executives are people too: Using emotional intelligence to recruit leaders

Written by Editor

July 16, 2024

By Vanessa Rogers, Textbox Conceptual

All around the world, a shift has transpired in the way senior executives are approaching their careers and nurturing their teams. Who would have thought that empathy would trump all on a former dog-eat-dog playing field?

There’s a new career landscape out there. Kathy Caprino writes for Forbes that a health crisis, just like a war, tends to give people a sense of urgency: “to re-craft their lives and careers, and not waste a single minute more in roles or [with] organisations that are no longer a good fit”.

This bodes well for the executive search specialists out there, and also the big corporations who retain their services. It means the search specialists may find they have a slightly wider pool of talent to put forward for an executive position; and that their corporate clients are more likely than ever before to be matched with the best possible senior candidate.

Another interesting development is the way in which the global context appears to be affecting us all in very much the same way. C-suite individuals and senior managers are not simply sitting pretty in their high-paying positions, but are becoming more contemplative – they are evaluating things like work-life balance; time with family and loved ones; flexibility; and doing work that is truly fulfilling to them and fits in with the personal goals and aspirations that they hold dear.

“A key characteristic that I look for in senior managers these days is their willingness and track record of being able to tackle change head on, when they believe it is for the best,” enthuses Jeremy Bossenger, director at BossJansen Executive Search. “They need to be like chameleons with their skills and capabilities; to mentor hands-on when required, or to seek skilled assistance from an appropriate external contractor.” 

Bossenger believes that the best C-Suite individuals out there are able to create a solid “culture of belonging” within an organisation – particularly when the world outside that big corporation is increasingly unpredictable.


IQ to the back of the queue

An interesting shift over the past three years in the global management arena has been that from a focus on IQ, onto one of EQ in the managers of today, reveals a study by Harvard Business School. Notably, 71 percent of employers said they now value EQ over IQ, reporting that employees with high emotional intelligence are more likely to “stay calm under pressure, resolve conflict effectively, and respond to co-workers with empathy”.

So, while your technical skills may be what placed you ahead in the early interviews of your career, these skills are no guarantee of your next promotion. “In fact your EQ,” advises Bossenger, “is what will allow you to best mentor junior staff, beat down stress, explain the reasons for a particular approach to a problem, and streamline your interactions with others at all levels of a business.”

Yes, indeed, the study emphasises that EQ – that holy grail combination of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management – accounts for almost 90 percent of what ranks the high performers up there in comparison to their peers with equally good technical skills, experience and knowledge.

Pep talks and people skills

With these important changes panning out in the executive search landscape all over the world, South African corporations will do well to seek a similar approach in the executive search firm with whom they choose to partner in the months ahead.

Caprino suggests that your next hire will be on the lookout for evidence of your being people-focused in all your dealings i.e across employees, customers and clients; and that amidst any kind of change out there in the outside world or, even, within a firm, you were able to lead with “empathy, self-discipline, adaptation, and innovation”.

“It is not boastful to speak passionately, during the hiring process, of your finest moments,” enthuses Bossenger. “How you led a team to an exciting ‘win’ by giving them a day off when it was due; or took the time to call a meeting so as to deliver a word or so of Siya Kolisi-type inspiration during a major deadline. It is this very approach that will stand out to your future boss in the proverbial hiring haystack.”

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