Communication, Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, Uncategorised

Emotional Intelligence: The Foundational Leadership Ability

Have you ever been in any of the following types of situations?

  • At the last minute, you’ve been asked to justify your group’s recommendation to senior leadership because the group’s chairperson couldn’t make the meeting. As a result, you find yourself in an emotional turmoil;
  • Your boss has misunderstood your motives behind a recent decision you’ve taken and as a result you feel angry and defensive;
  • Walking into a meeting, you sense something’s not quite right. What do you do?
  • Two of your team members continually criticise each other. As leader you know you should deal with it particularly as it’s affecting your team. How do you respond?

All of the above situations require Emotional Intelligence. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) has been defined as, “your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behaviour and relationships” (Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, p.17). Bradberry’s research found that EQ ability underscores many skills (including time management, decision-making and communication), accounts for 58% of successful performance in all kinds of jobs, is the single biggest predictor of workplace performance and the strongest driver of leadership success. In fact Bradberry found that 90% of all highly effective leaders were strong in EQ.

Emotional Intelligence comprises four domains: Self-Awareness; Self-Management; Social-Awareness and Relationship-Management, with Self-Awareness as the foundational skill. As Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee observe in their book, The New Leaders, “self-awareness facilitates empathy and self-management and these two, in combination, allow effective relationship management.”(p.37)

A summarised description of each domain, based on The New Leaders follows:

Self-Awareness – is being able to recognise your own emotions, how they impact others and using your instincts to guide decision-making. It’s also having a good sense of confidence and self-worth with a realistic assessment of your strengths and limitations.

Self-Management – is the ability to exercise self-control by managing disturbing emotions and impulses, even channelling them into positive directions while remaining calm and clear minded under pressure. It also includes transparency – being authentically open to others about your own feelings, beliefs and values and practising integrity through confronting others’ unethical behaviour while willing to admit your own mistakes and faults.

Social Awareness – means having a sense of empathy from being aware of others’ emotions, understanding their perspectives and taking their concerns seriously. It also includes organizational awareness – the ability to read organizational politics and dynamics and recognising the formal and informal decision-making networks. This domain also includes being able to recognise and serve the needs of others.

Relationship Management – is the capacity to apply the other three skills in the field of leadership. It features the ability to: guide and motivate followers with a compelling vision; lead through relational influence; develop people via feedback and coaching; initiate and facilitate personal and organizational change; engage in constructive conflict management; develop and sustain a network of relationships and build collaboration and teamwork.

Strengthening Your Emotional Intelligence

EQ is not static – like muscles in the human body it can be developed and strengthened. Over the years there have been a number of suggested ways of doing so, eg:

    1. Think before you speak (for Self-Awareness and Social Awareness)
    2. Count to 10 before reacting (for Self-Management)
    3. Breathe deeply when stressed (for Self-Awareness and Self-Management)
    4. Wait till at least 2-3 others in a group have spoken before making your comments (for Self-Management and Relationship Management)
    5. Seek the advice of someone whose opinions you respect and who knows you, before making a decision (Self-Awareness and Self-Management)
    6. Practise active listening skills to check you’ve really heard what the other is saying (for Social-Awareness)
    7. When looking at making organizational decisions, take some time to put yourself in the shoes of those it will impact, and lead in such a way that your reflections will factor into your leadership approach.

These are all valid suggestions – I personally use all of them. However, there are three specific EQ development strategies I especially recommend:

1) Undertake an EQ Assessment
While there are a number of free on-line assessments, the one I use and recommend for my clients is available from Emotional Intelligence 2.0. This appraisal has been developed from testing over 500,000 people. A participant’s Profile Report not only features their results validated against the international data base but also recommended action steps to develop their most critical domain. The price of the appraisal is included in the cost of the book using an individualised passcode, via a ‘scratchie’ (be sure to purchase a hard copy, not the audio version). The passcode enables participants to take the on-line assessment twice – firstly to establish a benchmark rating and then, after intentionally using the recommended development strategies, a few months later to check improvement.

2)  Find an Experienced Coach
My clients have found that having an experienced coach accelerates their EQ growth. As their coach I help my clients apply the recommended strategies from their EQ Appraisal Profile Report to the challenges and dynamics of their individual contexts. In that way I can help them process difficulties constructively and underscore learnings and progress. 

3) Practice
As with developing any skill ‘practice makes perfect’! I encourage my coachees to first practise the strategies recommended in their EQ Appraisal Profile Report in safe places – i.e. with people they feel safe and secure with such as family, friends, etc. Making mistakes there hopefully won’t have quite the same consequences as might be the case in the workplace. Once confidence builds, together with guidance from their coach, they can start using their new skills in other contexts which might be more challenging. 

Daniel Goleman is one of the world’s leading exponents of EQ. I’ll conclude this blog with another quote from his book, The New Leaders where it affirms that under the guidance of an emotionally intelligent leader, “people feel a mutual comfort level. They share ideas, learn from one another, make decisions collaboratively, and get things done. They form an emotional bond that helps them stay focused even amid profound change and uncertainty. Perhaps most important, connecting with others at an emotional level makes work more meaningful.” (p. 25)

Graham Beattie

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