Neither a high IQ, nor a prestigious business degree, nor technical know-how is a reliable indicator of professional success. Rather, the single most important factor in job performance and advancement is emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence refers to the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions in ourselves and in our relationships. Simply put, emotional intelligence is the intelligent use of emotions. It encompasses maturity, emotional health, and “grownupness.” You intentionally make your emotions work for you by using them to help guide your behavior and thinking in ways that enhance your results.
For leaders, emotional intelligence accounts for almost 90 percent of what sets “stars” apart from the mediocre. And organizations that build emotional intelligence in groups are the ones that are vital and dynamic today – and will remain so in the future.
Unlike IQ, EI can be developed and dramatically increased at any age. But boosting your EI takes extensive practice, feedback, and personal enthusiasm for making the change. Are you up to the challenge?
Using a Mix of Leadership Styles Yields Positive Results
Emotionally smart leaders know that being flexible with their leadership styles pays big dividends. They know that instead of choosing the style that best suits their temperament, they adopt the style that best addresses the demands of a particular situation.
The most successful leaders have strengths in the following emotional intelligence competencies:
- and social skill.
Researchers have identified six basic styles of leadership; each makes use of these EI competencies in different combinations. The leadership style that is chosen in any given situation dramatically affects the way that managers motivate direct reports, gather and use information, make decisions, manage change initiatives and handle crises.
In a recent Harvard Business Review article entitled: Leadership That Gets Results, author Daniel Goleman presents the six leadership styles and suggests situations in which they are effective and those in which they are likely to backfire. Here’s a brief overview of how Goleman describes the styles:
1. The coercive style. This “Do what I say” approach can be very effective in a turn-around situations, a natural disaster, or when working with problem employees. But in most situations, coercive leadership inhibits the organization’s flexibility and dampens employees’ motivation. This style demands immediate compliance.
2. The authoritative style. An authoritative leader takes a “come with me” approach: she states the overall goal but gives people the freedom to choose their own means of achieving it. This style works especially well when a business is adrift. It is less effective when the leader is working with a team of experts who are more experienced than he is. This style mobilizes people toward a vision.
3. The affiliative style. The hallmark of the affiliative leader is a “people come first” attitude. This style is particularly useful for building team harmony or increasing morale. But its exclusive focus on praise can allow poor performance to go uncorrected. Also affiliative leaders rarely offer advice, which often leaves employees in a quandary. This style tends to heal rifts in a team or motivate people during stressful circumstances.
4. The democratic style. By giving workers a voice in decisions, democratic leaders build organizational flexibility and responsibility and help generate fresh ideas. But sometimes the price is endless meetings and confused employees who feel leaderless. It is best used to build buy-in or consensus, or to get input from valuable employees.
5. The pacesetting style. A leader who sets high performance standards and exemplifies them himself has a very positive impact on employees who are self-motivated and highly competent. But other employees tend to feel overwhelmed by such a leader’s demands for excellence — and to resent his tendency to take over a situation.
6. The coaching style. This style focuses more on personal development than on immediate work-related tasks. It works to develop people for the future. It works well when employees are already aware of their weaknesses and want to improve, but not when they are resistant to changing their ways.
Goleman tells us, “The more styles a leader masters, the better.” Being able to switch among the styles as conditions dictate, “creates the best organizational climate and optimizes performance.” While most leaders have a predominant style, they need to work to expand their style repertories. They can do so by first understanding which emotional intelligence competencies underlie the leadership styles they are lacking, and then by working to increase develop those competencies through measurement, practice, and feedback.
EI Leadership Dimensions Build Upon Each Other
Work Without Emotion is Like an Opera Without Music
In his book, Primal Leadership Daniel Goleman outlines the four leadership dimensions of emotional intelligence. He contends that the dimensions build upon one another. For example, self-awareness is crucial for self-management; self-management, in turn, is crucial for success in terms of social awareness and relationship management. As Goleman points out: “None of us is perfect on this scale; we inevitably have a profile of strengths and limits….the ingredients for outstanding performance require only that we have strengths in a given number of these competencies….and that our strengths be spread across all four of the areas of emotional intelligence.” While he tells us there are many paths to excellence, in general, leaders who exhibit sensitivity to the range of needs and individual differences in their organizations get the best performance results.
Our emotional intelligence determines our potential for learning the practical skills that are based on these competencies. Our emotional competence measures how much of that potential we have translated into on-the-job capabilities. As Goleman explains it: “Being good at serving customers is an emotional competence based on empathy. Likewise, trustworthiness is a competence based on self-regulation, or handing impulses and emotions well. Both customer service and trustworthiness are competencies that can make people outstanding in their work.” He goes on to explain that “Simply being high in emotional intelligence does not guarantee a person will have learned the emotional competencies that matter for work; it means only that they have excellent potential to learn them.”
The foundation of Goleman’s model is self-awareness. Self-aware people recognize their emotions and their effects on others. The second tier, self-management, demands knowing one’s inner resources, abilities, and limits. The third and fourth tier deal with “People Skills.” Each tier builds on the one below it.
Emotional Intelligence in Action
From Working with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman: “The aptitudes you need to succeed start with intellectual horsepower – but people need emotional competence, too, to get the full potential of their talents. The reason we don’t get people’s full potential is emotional incompetence.”
“If you are part of a management team, you need to consider whether your organization fosters these [EI] competencies or discourages them. To the degree your organizational climate nourishes these competencies, your organization will be more effective and productive. You will maximize your group’s intelligence, the synergistic interaction of every person’s best talents.”
From a Harvard Business Review article entitled: Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Performance, by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee:
“Emotional intelligence travels through an organization like electricity over telephone wires. Depressed, ruthless bosses create toxic organizations filled with negative underachievers. But if you’re an upbeat, inspirational leader, you cultivate positive employees who embrace and surmount even the toughest challenges. Managing for financial results, then, begins with the leader managing his inner life so that the right emotional and behavior chain reaction occurs.”
From The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace by Cary Cherniss and Daniel Goleman:
“The higher one’s position in an organization, the more important EI is; EI accounts for 85 to 90 percent of the success of organizational leaders.”
And, finally, from the Harvard Business Review article entitled Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups by Vanessa Urch Druskat and Steven B. Wolff:
“Group emotional intelligence is about the small acts that make a big difference. It is not about a team member working all night to meet a deadline; it is about saying thank you for doing so. It is not about in-depth discussion of ideas; it is about asking a quiet member for his thoughts. It is not about harmony, lack of tension, and all members liking each other; it is about acknowledging when harmony is false, tension is unexpressed, and treating others with respect.”
Emotional Competencies: Guidelines for Learning
The good news is that emotional intelligence, unlike IQ, can be improved throughout life. Our emotional intelligence tends to increase as we learn to be more aware of our moods and the moods of others, to handle distressing emotions better, to listen and empathize – in short, as we become more mature.
Developing emotional intelligence differs from intellectual learning in fundamental ways. It requires developing new behaviors – and this takes practice over time. Intellectual learning can take place in a classroom; emotional intelligence learning takes place best in life and over an extended period of time. Nevertheless, teaching emotional competencies can be accomplished using the following guidelines, which are offered by the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations, a coalition of researchers and practitioners from business school, the federal government, consulting firms, and corporations.
- Assess the job. Training should focus on the competencies needed most for excellence in a given job or role.
- Assess the individual. The individual’s profile of strengths and limitations should be assessed to identify what needs improving.
- Deliver assessments with care. Feedback on a person’s strengths and weaknesses carry an emotional charge.
- Gauge readiness. People are at different levels of readiness.
- Motivate. People learn to the degree they are motivated – for example, by realizing that a competence is important to do their job well – and making the competence a personal goal for change.
- Make change self-directed. When people direct their learning program, tailoring it to their needs, circumstances, and motivation, learning is more effective.
- Focus on clear, manageable goals. People need to understand the competence and the steps needed to improve it.
- Prevent relapse. Habits change slowly. Relapses and slips need not signal defeat.
- Give performance feedback. Ongoing feedback encourages and helps direct change.
- Encourage practice. Lasting change requires sustained practice both on and off the job.
- Arrange support. Like-minded people who are also trying to make similar changes can offer crucial ongoing support.
- Provide models. High status, highly effective people who embody the competence can be models who inspire change.
- Encourage. Change will be greater if the organization’s environment supports the change, values the competence, and offers a safe atmosphere for experimentation.
- Reinforce change. People need recognition – to feel their change efforts matter.
- Evaluate. Establish ways to evaluate the development effort to see if it has lasting effects.
These guidelines appear in Daniel Goleman’s Working with Emotional Intelligence book and on The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations web site: www.eiconsortium.org.
Build the Emotional Intelligence of Teams and Boost Their Overall Performance
Just like individuals, the most effective teams are emotionally intelligent ones. And like individuals, emotional intelligence can be built within teams. A team’s EI isn’t simply the sum of its members’ EI; rather, it comes from norms that support awareness and regulation of emotions both within and outside the team. Teams with a high EI build the foundation for true collaboration and cooperation – enabling the members to feel that they work better together than individually and enabling them to boost their overall performance.
To build EI within a group, the members must be aware of and constructively regulate the emotions of the individual team members, the whole group, and other key groups with whom it interacts. They can do so by establishing EI norms – rules for behavior. For example, a group’s norm for regulating the emotions of individual team members might be: “to encourage all group members to share their perspectives before making key decisions.” A norm for the whole group might be: “Regularly assess the group’s strengths, weaknesses, and modes of interaction.” And one for other key groups might be: “Designate team members as liaisons to key outside constituencies.”
These norms serve to build emotional capacity and influence emotions in constructive ways. The norms outline the attitudes and behaviors that eventually become habits.
They serve to support behaviors for building trust, group identity, and a belief that the team can perform well and that group members are more effective working together than apart. At the heart of these behaviors are emotions.
A group’s emotional intelligence is not about learning to suppress emotions; rather, it’s about bringing emotions deliberately to the surface and understanding how they affect the team’s work. It is also about building relationships that strengthen the team’s ability to face challenges.
Intrigued by EI? Want to Learn More?
The Wunderlin Company has been using this body of work on emotional intelligence for a number of years with our clients. It provides a springboard for helping our clients understand how their emotions impact their own success and those with whom they work – staff, suppliers, and clients.
We have a number of resources that we use extensively with our work on this subject. Take a look at the books on our “bookshelf” for further learning about this essential subject:
Boyatzis, Richard, Daniel Goleman and Annie McKee. 2002. Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Cherniss, Cary and Daniel Goleman. 2001. The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Goleman, Daniel. 1998. Working with Emotional Intelligence, New York: Bantam Books.
Goleman, Daniel. 1995. Emotional Intelligence, New York: Bantam Books.
Pearman, Roger R. 2002. Introduction to Type and Emotional Intelligence, Palo Alto: CPPI, Inc.
Weisinger, Hendrie, Ph.D. 1998. Emotional Intelligence at Work, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
We also recommend the following articles from The Harvard Business Review:
Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Performance
Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups.
And check out this website:
The website for The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations is packed with research findings including model programs, business cases for EI, practice guidelines, and downloadable reports.
And finally, The Wunderlin Company is so committed to integrating knowledge of EI into our work that we cover it extensively in all our workshops. For more information visit: www.wunderlin.com/workshops.
Carol Schifman says
GREAT article. Descriptive and good synopsis/application of EI.
Jim Dimas says
The article and podcast provide a good introduction to the concept of EI. I like that the material is available in text and audio. I tend to learn best by reading but others benefit more from the spoken word. However, I initially was not sure on whether to listen, read or do both. This material is not lengthy, so that is not an issue here. Longer presentaions could benefit from an introduction making clear that either reading or listening will do the job depending on what works better for the recipient.