By John Morrison on Jan 17, 2009
“Emotional intelligence refers to the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships," says Daniel Goleman in his book "Working with Emotional Intelligence" (1999). It describes abilities distinct from, but complementary to, academic intelligence - the purely cognitive capacities measured by IQ.
Emotional intelligence, or EI is the ability to understand your own emotions and those of people around you. The concept of emotional intelligence means you have a self-awareness that enables you to recognise feelings and helps you manage your emotions. On a personal level, it involves motivation and being able to focus on a goal rather than demanding instant gratification. A person with a high emotional intelligence is also capable of understanding the feelings of others. Culturally, they are better at handling relationships of every kind.
Just because someone is deemed 'intellectually' intelligent, it does not necessarily follow they are emotionally intelligent. Having a good memory, or good problem solving abilities, does not mean the person is dealing with emotions or motivating themselves.
“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”
— Theodore Roosevelt
In the recent years, the emergence of the emotional intelligence (EI) phenomenon has jolted traditional views of what it takes to be an effective leader. Several authors have written books describing what it is and how it can impact organizational effectiveness and its relevance to leadership development. Daniel Goleman, co-director of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations at Rutgers University, has authored and co-authored Emotional Intelligence, Working with Emotional Intelligence, and Primal Leadership. The empirical data, actual case studies, and relevant examples cited make a strong case for the critical importance and potential for nurturing the emotional competencies we all possess.
Some of the components of emotional intelligence include, self management, social awareness, and relationship management.
Self management. Remaining calm under stress or during a crisis is an obvious aspect of self management. Losing control during the tough times is at best confusing to employees and, at worst, can make them fearful and anxious. There are several less obvious aspects of self management, however. Good self-managers recognize that everyone makes mistakes and admit their own errors in judgment or deed. They’re also resilient and adaptable — key characteristics in today’s volatile business climate, where change and ambiguity are often the norm.
Social awareness. EI competency requires an awareness of the needs of others and an understanding of the politics and the “unwritten rules” within the organization. The ability to listen to employees and the courage and ability to manage conflict are also critical components of social awareness. Studies indicate that conflict management is one of the most challenging areas for business leaders.
Relationship management. This is not about the mere ability to get along with people. Relationship management draws together all the aspects of emotional intelligence and harnesses those capabilities to motivate and empower the organization. It’s about creating a team that’s more than the sum of its parts.
Managers with good EI competency understand that everything they say and do affects their employees. They value the different perspectives their employees bring to each situation. They manage conflict constructively so that employees can reach consensus and move forward. Managers with good EI competency inspire employees to pull together and function as a team.
“Emotions, like germs, are easily transmissible. The trick is passing and receiving the right ones.”
Emotions and moods impact our thinking and even the decisions we make and ultimately generate an attitude that we display through behavior and habits. Because emotions and moods are so contagious, the prevailing attitude of an organization is usually a reflection of its leadership.
In Working with Emotional Intelligence, Goleman reveals the skills that distinguish star performers in every field, from entry-level jobs to top executive positions. He shows that the single most important factor is not IQ, advanced degrees, or technical expertise, but the quality Goleman calls emotional intelligence. Self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-control; commitment and integrity; the ability to communicate and influence, to initiate and accept change – these competencies are at a premium in today's job market. The higher up the leadership ladder you go, the more vital these skills become, often influencing who is hired or fired, passed over or promoted. As Goleman shows, we all possess the potential to improve our emotional intelligence at any stage in our career. As individuals' accountabilities become more complex, and leaner budgets demand more output from less people, interdependency and teamwork are critical requirements for organizational effectiveness. Key contributors not only possess information and ideas, but more importantly, they have the ability to effectively utilize social networks within the organization. People want to discuss, learn, and collaborate with them because of their ability to build bonds, develop others, self-manage, listen, share information, and understand.
Whether one is formally assigned a leadership role, or surfaces as a leader in a given situation requiring leadership, key contributors are intuitive about the needs of others, recognize the nuances of a situation, and seamlessly respond to create positive outcomes. These are the differentiating factors, the emotional intelligence smarts, that change the landscape of our thinking about developing leaders. Goleman in his book, shares an analogy of the emotionally intelligent leader as the golf pro who assesses a shot, considers the implications and options, looks in his/her bag of many clubs, selects, and elegantly executes. As one plays more, tries out different strategies, becomes more confident and comfortable, the shots are more automatic and more consistently hit the target. In the same fashion, effective leaders are those who develop a range of El competencies, can assess situations intuitively, make sound choices about what is most needed by individuals and the group in a multitude of situations, and then deliver.
Job competency skills may be broadly categorized in two – one refers to the base set of skill sets required to get the job done and the second set of skills are the competencies that differentiate the star performers from the average performers. For example, employees in the IT industry generally need a high level of technical expertise to do the job and can be counted as a base skill set. The differentiating skill sets include attributes such as taking initiative, continuous self-improvement, team working skills which are all emotional competencies. To put it another way, if you're a scientist, you probably needed an IQ of 120 or so simply to get a doctorate and a job. But then it is more important to be able to persist in the face of difficulty and to get along well with colleagues and subordinates than it is to have an extra 10 or 15 points of IQ. The same is true in many other occupations.
EI is the ability to sense and leverage the power of human emotions. It’s a portfolio of skills, including self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. People with high EI competency understand themselves — their values, how they make decisions, and what motivates them. They know how to keep their emotions in check and remain calm and clear-headed when working with others. They have a tremendous capacity to understand and appreciate other perspectives, as well as the skills to build relationships. They understand how they affect others and can use that influence positively. And unlike IQ, emotional intelligence is something that can be developed through focused coaching. Even the best managers and leaders have areas of weakness, or at least non-strengths, that with careful attention and feedback can get better.