Why Emotional Intelligence Matters for Leaders

Emotional intelligence is our ability to recognize and manage our own emotions, and to recognize the emotions of those around us; using that information to more effectively communicate and collaborate with others. Salovey and Mayer created the original term, Emotional Intelligence, and its definition, an individual’s ability to identify, understand, control and assess their emotions and the emotions of others. Daniel Goleman, a psychologist, made the term and concept popular and focused on EI and leadership through five key elements:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

Significant research has been conducted over the years around emotional intelligence and leadership. This research points to the importance of emotional intelligence in leaders.

Daniel Goleman researched the link between emotional intelligence and effective leadership.  In his article in the Harvard Business Review article What Makes a Leader, that, “The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. My research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership.”

Cary Cherniss, professor emeritus of organizational psychology and co-chair of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations at Rutgers University, noted that, “Effective leaders tend to be smart in the traditional way, but there’s also this emotional component that’s probably equally important, if not more so.”

The Value of Leaders Being Emotionally Intelligent

When leaders are emotionally intelligent, they are more likely to engage within the organization, communicating and collaborating in ways that works for their employees and therefore drives the organization forward. Strong emotionally intelligent leaders create an environment in the workplace where employees,

  • are comfortable taking calculated risks that enables for innovation and improved competition.
  • will voice their opinions, ideas, concerns and raise issues, all without fee of repercussions.
  • are engaged because leaders know how to use emotional appeal to get employees excited about the vision for the organization.
  • collaborate and communicate effectively because the organization is structured to rely on teamwork and communication for success.
  • adapt to change more easily because leaders understand how to frame that change with a focus on the employee, not just the organization.

Emotionally intelligent leaders are empathetic. They take time to put themselves in their employees’ place and consider their employees as individuals; thereby successfully addressing individual employee needs for professional and personal growth. They motivate employees to achieve their very best.

The Downside of Leaders who Lack Emotional Intelligence

Leaders who lack emotional intelligence do not handle stress well and tend to get angry quickly. Organizations led by such leaders often see employees who are afraid to take calculated risks as their fear punishment. Employees of such leaders tend to be disengaged in the workplace, coming in and doing their work, but not collaborating or communicating as effectively as those led by emotionally intelligent employees. Leaders who lack emotional intelligence do not handle conflict well and therefore do not want, nor receive well, comments, ideas, concerns or issues from employees.

Such leaders cannot effectively manage their emotions and therefore react to every situation; thereby creating fear among employees. Decisions usually made by such leaders are made reactively and based purely on emotions. Such leaders have a difficult hiring and retaining top talent. Over time, organizations led by leaders who lack emotional intelligence fall behind the competition and struggle to stay relevant in a globally competitive environment.

You Can Teach Them!

Leaders who lack emotional intelligence can be coached in developing emotional intelligence. They need to recognize that they have emotions (who knew!). This enables them to focus on how these emotions manifest themselves (what are their triggers?) and to develop a plan to effectively manage those responses. Then, we can focus on how leaders can recognize and manage the emotional reactions to others.

Abudi Consulting Group has successfully used a variety of techniques to get leaders to recognize where their emotional intelligence is lacking. This has been through use of 360 assessments, conversations with leaders where specific situations are discussed, observing and talking about particular behaviors that are less than emotionally intelligent, and through working with leaders to keep a journal of situations that trigger specific emotional responses.

Learn more – read one of our case studies of improving emotional intelligence for managers within a client organization. This case study is in three parts:

Part One: Exploring Emotional Intelligence: Helping Managers Success

Part Two: Exploring Emotional Intelligence: Helping Managers Success (Part 2)

Part Three: Exploring Emotional Intelligence: Helping Managers Success (Part 3)

In Summary….

Organizations that focus on hiring for emotional intelligence, and nurture and provide support to develop and strengthen emotional intelligence in leaders see increased profitability and improved market share over their competition. They are better able to recruit and retain top talent and engage that talent to achieve the goals of the organization.

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