The Case For More Emotionally-Intelligent CFOs

Financial leaders will always need to know the numbers, but they’ll also need to be experts at observing and acting on the mood in the office.

Amid all the hype and debate over the impact of artificial intelligence, or AI, on businesses, we may sometimes overlook EI — something just as powerful for CFOs and arguably a bit closer at hand.

EI, in this case, stands for emotional intelligence, and while it might be seen as particularly important for CEOs to cultivate, the increased role of finance leaders in strategic decision-making means they should be thinking about it too.

Like IQ, which measures intelligence, EI is also sometimes referred to as EQ or “emotional intelligence quotient). You don’t necessarily need to take a test to determine your score, but a post on YourStory.com interviews a behavioral psychologist to break it down into five pillars. Those with strong EI have a high level of self-awareness, for example, and self-regulate their emotions as needed in the workplace. They also demonstrate empathy, are self-motivated and generally get along well with others.

Compared to IQ, “emotional intelligence emerges as a much stronger predictor of who will be most successful because it is how we handle ourselves in our relationships that determines how well we do once we are in a given job,” the post said.

A recent article on CGMA Magazine suggested much the same thing. The author looked at some of the specific ways EI would help CFOs thrive.

CFOs must step out of their traditional comfort zone and become much more outgoing, able to relate to people, and able to see the big picture and beyond. They need to speak to their counterparts in person and use their EI skills to find out where resources are truly needed. They cannot just focus on reporting numbers and allocating funds instinctively.

Of course, this isn’t to suggest CFOs should be over-reliant on the emotional cues of their peers and coworkers. In fact, Reader’s Digest reported on a study that showed those with high EI may be more prone to stress than others.

Maybe it’s best to think about it this way: start with the same empirical data that finance departments have been managing since they were first created. Use analytics to derive the best, most actionable insight on how to improve business performance. Then, observe and take into account the emotions of all the human beings who will be involved in making that strategy real.

Once the strategy starts to pay off, you’ll start to notice some truly positive emotions at work — employees who only want to take that success even further.