EQ: Leading softly through the challenges of Covid-19

EQ: Leading softly through the challenges of Covid-19

In many ways, a crisis makes leadership and decision-making in business a little easier because it clears the mind and also focuses the mind on the real and immediate priorities for the business. Having said that, there is no doubt that the quality of leadership, decision-making and communications all play a vital role in successfully navigating a crisis. 

Leadership in a crisis demands a high degree of soft skills – a more reflective approach that incorporates empathy and compassion, as uncertainty creates stresses across the workforce/team. This ‘emotional intelligence’ (EQ) focuses on people skills, and combined with business insights and acumen, are essential qualities for any leader to develop. 

The Manchester Global part-time MBA places a greater emphasis on developing these personal and professional skills and qualities, alongside the harder technical skills and expertise expected of an MBA holder, to help create a more rounded business leader.

According to LinkedIn Learning’s list of the most important soft skills for companies in 2020, interpersonal skills that make or break the ability to get things done are rising in importance. The 2020 top 5 list comprises creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability and emotional intelligence— the interpersonal soft skills that enable us to work effectively with others and that employers increasingly value. ‘Emotional intelligence’ is a new entrant to the list. 

LinkedIn Learning’s top 5 soft skills for 2020

1.    Creativity - Organizations need people who can creatively approach problems and tasks across all business roles, from software engineering to HR. Focus on honing your ability to bring new ideas to the table in 2020. 
2.    Persuasion - Leaders and hiring managers value individuals who can explain the “why.” To advance your career, brush up on your ability to effectively communicate ideas and persuade your colleagues and stakeholders that it’s in their best interest to follow your lead. 
3.    Collaboration - High-functioning teams can accomplish more than any individual—and organizations know it. Learn how your strengths can complement those of your colleagues to reach a common goal.
4.    Adaptability - The only constant in life—and in business—is change. To stand out in 2020, embrace that reality and make sure to show up with a positive attitude and open-minded professionalism, especially in stressful situations. 
5.    Emotional Intelligence - Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, evaluate, and respond to your own emotions and the emotions of others. New to the most in-demand skills list this year, the need for emotional intelligence underscores the importance of effectively responding to and interacting with our colleagues. 

Soft skills and personalisation are increasingly important to MBA students; soft skill areas from communications to the reflective manager illustrate the growing importance of the intangible qualities of leadership and management beyond the technical and functional; the workplace as a space to grow ideas and influence others is important. 

The professional and personal skills from leadership to creativity required are increasingly being packaged into executive MBA programmes which may include a degree of personal development and even personal executive mentoring for students. It’s good news; business schools teaching business people, and not just delivering content. 

Mastering EQ can help you recognise your own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve your goal(s).

CEOs also identify emotional intelligence (EQ) as an important and difficult to find factor which is ironic in an increasingly virtual and digital workplace, as many of us work remotely, and with AI, automation and robotics making inroads. 

The human element is increasingly recognised as an important and differentiating factor within the business organisation. According to recent research by Robert Half, the UK recruitment company, one in four UK business leaders says that EQ is undervalued when recruiting, even though most businesses (60%) believe it is a very important skill for staff. 

In its report on the 10 skills needed to thrive in the 4th Industrial revolution, the World Economic Forum predicts that EQ will become one of the top ten skills, as business leaders are looking for people who have more than just technical skills. Companies are putting greater emphasis on the softer skills needed to survive and thrive in a rapidly transforming and uncertain business environment.

Managing people has never been more demanding and it’s the uniquely human soft skills that managers will need (alongside the technical skills needed to do the job) that will make the difference and continuing development of management skills is essential for managers at every level of the organisation. 

Leading a team and business through the rapid shock and ongoing disruption of a pandemic, takes special skills, as Alliance MBS alumnus, Firas Eid – founder and CEO of ANALYTICS, a professional services firm – clearly understands. When the pandemic hit, revenues evaporated almost overnight, putting the firm’s business sustainability at risk. 

Firas and his management team quickly developed a three-point plan to navigate the severe disruption – business continuity; a revenue replacement plan; and a campaign targeting new business in key industries to align more closely aligned with the longer term opportunities of the region, post Covid-19.

Leadership was a challenge and critical factor, especially when working remotely. “We made sure that we all connected online every day at least initially to review projects and progress, reassure staff and support and encourage collaboration. Team calls also gave us some valuable brainstorming time and we had 1-2-1 conversations to listen to any individual concerns and help address them. Doing the right thing is important - client relationships need the same care and attention and supporting people in tough times creates long term goodwill and valuable word of mouth in a relatively small market.”