How is emotional intelligence linked to leadership?

In recent years, many observers of leadership in action realised that something was going on that could not be explained by leadership skills or personality alone. Why did some leaders do much better than others, even when there was little or no difference in their skills, intelligence or personal style? What was the secret to better interaction with collaborators and improved self-awareness and mastery?

Emotional intelligence – the difference between good and great leadership

The answer comes from modelling the way outstanding leaders handle emotionally charged situations and more generally in handling emotional states, both for themselves and their teams. Emotional intelligence, or the ability to comprehend and to manage emotions and moods is a significant contributor to effective relationships and effective leadership.

Leaders and executives aspiring to leadership, who learn how to detect and comprehend emotional information, and to use it to guide their thoughts and actions, can operate at a higher level. Traditional measures of intelligence such as IQ tests may predict levels of technical excellence, but they cannot help in understanding how leaders will perform with other human beings. The key lies in the ‘non-cognitive’ abilities that together define emotional intelligence, and that may play an even bigger part in success in life, either personally or professionally.

Making the link with leadership competence

The emotional competencies model defined by psychologist Daniel Goleman in 1988 allows us to link capability in emotional intelligence with competence in leadership. It defines four fundamental skills that people can use to manage themselves and their interactions with others:

  • Self-awareness
    The ability to identify your emotions and understand their impact, using feelings intuitively as a basis for decision-making. Being able to do this opens up a new range of possibilities of leadership, compared to a ‘cold logic’ only approach.
  • Social awareness
    The ability to detect, comprehend and act in accordance with other people’s emotions; the ability, as well, to do this within social networks. Communication plays a vital part in leadership, both within the team, the wider organisation, and key stakeholders.
  • Self-management
    Being able to control your own emotions, reactions and impulses, and using this to better adapt yourself to situations that change. The degree to which a person is perceived as being self-aware, straightforward and in control of themselves and the situation is closely correlated to the perception of his or her leadership capabilities. This is especially true of transformational leadership contexts.
  • Social skills
    Also referred to as relationship management, these are the skills that you then use as a leader to inspire and influence followers, and to also develop them while managing conflict. In a sense this is what the first three skills build up to and what underpins the results associated with good leadership.

Studies such as the one by Goleman which appeared in the Harvard Business Review (1998) show evidence linking emotional intelligence in the leadership of large companies with profitability. The message is clear. By developing the level and acuity of emotional intelligence in its leaders, an organisation will function better and the business will be more successful.

Developing Emotional Intelligence
The great news is, Emotional Intelligence, or EI or EQ as it is also referred to, can be practiced and improved. There are effective techniques for doing this including obtaining feedback and working with an executive coach to improve self-insight, emotional mastery and social skills. This alone makes EQ a very different quality to IQ.

EQ can also be measured through the use of a psychometric instrument (MSCEIT), a great starting point for coaching to focus on specific skills and areas for development.

If you would like to hear more about the programs that we put in place with clients to develop EQ for specific goals, then we suggest that you pick up the phone and call Alison on 0400 340 171. Together, we can discuss aspects of your organisation that could see rapid and significant benefit from this key element of leadership for results.

References cited above:

  • Goleman, D 1988, Working with emotional intelligence, Bantam Books, New York.
  • Goleman, D 1998, What makes a leader?, Harvard Business Review Vol. 76 Issue 6 pp93-96.