Leading with EQ: How Talent Acquisition Leaders Can Unlock Their Company’s Potential

Katie FortunatoBy Katie Fortunato
December 15th, 2023 • 4 Minutes

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“Leading from a place of EQ will open up the gates for innovation and trust in the workplace,” Sally Helgesen described the leadership training approach of US military leaders on EQ at the Chief Executive Group Masterclass for Women in Leadership event

For talent acquisition leaders, although not quite the same as preparing a military for combat, the stakes have never been higher. Unemployment is at a near-historic low and the job market growth has slowed, indicating a tight labor market. Attracting and retaining top talent in today’s labor market requires more than just sourcing resumes and interviewing candidates. It demands a leadership style that fosters innovation, builds trust, and unleashes the collective potential of your team. That’s where Emotional Intelligence (EQ) comes in, emerging as the secret weapon for TA leaders who want to build high-performing, forward-thinking and adaptable teams.

Unleashing the Innovation Engine

Imagine a culture where new ideas flow freely, risks are embraced and collaboration thrives. This is the power of psychological safety—a cornerstone of EQ leadership. When talent feels valued, understood and trusted, they’re more likely to share their unique perspectives and break the mold. This fertile ground for innovation is where groundbreaking solutions and game-changing strategies are born.

Building Trust, the Foundation of Collaboration

Trust is the bedrock of any successful team. It’s often the most fragile element. TA leaders who practice leading with EQ understand the power of empathy and active listening. 

By demonstrating genuine interest in their team’s well-being and concerns, they create a space where open communication and collaboration can flourish. This builds trust, nurturing a sense of belonging and commitment that drives team success.

The Challenge: Aligning Aspirations with the “North Star”

Leading with EQ isn’t just about warm smiles and feel-good vibes. Talent leaders face the crucial challenge of aligning individual aspirations with the organization’s North Star—its core mission and higher purpose. When personal goals diverge from the bigger picture, friction and disengagement can arise. To proactively overcome this obstacle in team management, Gail McGovern, a renowned business leader and CEO of the American Red Cross, advises, “If [leaders] tap into the higher purpose, communicating [the core mission] a lot, and making sure your three constituencies are prioritized—across clients, customers and employees—individual promotion will come if you’re doing the right thing for the business.” 

Gail spoke to the same group of leaders at the Women in Leadership webinar mentioned earlier, “Our strategy is built around the financials and the mission and who we are taking care of, and our people (employees).” She further stressed the importance of making the right hiring decisions. “It’s the biggest lever that you have as a leader. You can pick the people who will knock the ball out of the park to do the jobs you need to do. If you want to get ahead, have a good base of colleagues who can help you.” 

Bridging the Gap: Strategies for EQ-Powered Talent Acquisition

  1. Hire for EQ as much as IQ: Seek out candidates who possess strong self-awareness, social skills, and the ability to manage their emotions effectively. Gail shared one of her priority values that she seeks out during the hiring process: “Hire only people who are smart and nice.”
  2. Be a Neutral Mediator: During heightened discussions, when emotions are high, take a back seat, and give the floor to your team by mediating the conversation in a neutral way. Guide your team to identify the pros and cons, and play devil’s advocate. It’s your job to identify voices not normally surfaced, and invite them into the conversation. By doing this, your team will adopt this curiosity and healthy debate across the business for decision-making.
  3. Empower Your Team to Rise with EQ Training: Instead of just stating an outcome, frame it as an action you’re taking. Highlight specific EQ skills you’ll invest in, like “active listening workshops, collaborative conflict resolution training, and mindfulness sessions for emotional regulation.”
  4. Lead by Example: As the leader of the team, leaders must embody the principles of EQ in their own behavior. Practice self-awareness, regulate your emotions effectively and demonstrate empathy in all your interactions. One way you can physically ensure that you are actively listening and in tune with your EQ is to remove any barriers that shield your physical presence. For example, multi-tasking behind a screen during meetings. Or presenting a powerpoint presentation on a Zoom, where the content projects over your side of the screen. Look people in the eye as you are listening, and fight the urge to multitask while others are presenting.
  5. Connect to Purpose: Clearly communicate the organization’s mission consistently and remind everyone how each individual role contributes to its achievement. This sense of shared purpose can galvanize teams and inspire them to go the extra mile.

Embrace the EQ Journey

Remember, EQ leadership is not a destination, but a continuous journey. By embracing the challenges and implementing these strategies, you can unlock the transformative power of EQ in your talent acquisition team. You’ll build a culture of innovation, trust, and high performance, attracting and retaining the top talent your organization needs to thrive.

So, are you ready to lead with your heart and head? Tell us, what EQ strategies you favor to unlock your team’s potential by emailing us here

For a comprehensive list of the top talent acquisition tools to help with your recruitment efforts, visit our marketplace now. Happy hiring.

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