When Manfred FR Kets de Vries, the director of Insead’s Global Leadership Center, was asked how he identified successful leaders, without hesitation he replied: “The first thing I look for is emotional intelligence.” Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a term/skill that is receiving a lot of attention these days in management and leadership circles. Much of the 360 Feedback evaluation tool is devoted to measuring, to some extent, a person’s emotional intelligence. This month we will look at EI and how it can help you become a more successful leader.
Emotional intelligence, as described by Daniel Goleman, the EI guru, “includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skill.” • Self-awareness is the ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions, and drives, as well as their effect on others. If you are self-confident, realistic about your personal assessment, and have a self-depreciating sense of humor, most likely you are self-aware.
• Self-regulation is the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods. It is also having the propensity to suspend judgment – to think before acting. If you have integrity and are trustworthy, feel comfortable with ambiguity, and are open to change, chances are you are able to regulate yourself.
• Motivation is a passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status, and having a propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence. If you have a strong drive to achieve, are optimistic (even in the face of failure), and are committed to your organization, then you are definitely motivated.
• Empathy is the ability to understand the emotional make-up of other people. It also requires a skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions. If you have an expertise in building and retaining talent, are cross-culturally sensitive, and are dedicated to servicing your clients and customers, most likely you are an empathetic person.
• Social skill is having proficiency in managing relationships and building networks. It requires an ability to find common ground and build rapport. If you are effective in leading change, are persuasive and have developed an expertise in building and leading teams, then you have social skills.
Sample EI test questions include:
1. Do you recognize how your feelings affect your performance, the quality of experience at work and your relationships?
2. Are you aware of your strengths and weaknesses to the degree that others familiar with you would agree with you?
3. Are you open to candid feedback?
4. Can you celebrate diversity in personal and professional life?
5. Are you able to remain collected, positive and unflustered even in stressful situations?
6. Are you able to build trust by displaying congruent behavior through your words and actions being in alignment? 7. Do you keep promises?
8. Do you take responsibility for your actions and inaction where appropriate?
Ask yourself these further questions:
Do people feel comfortable with you? Do they want to be around you? Are you able to give praise to the right people at the right time? Do you know how to build teams, and what kind of people make good team players? Are you an effective motivator?
The idea that leaders must be self-reflective in order to be successful has been met with the quick response. “In order to make it in business, you have to be a doer!” We don’t disagree with this. But long-term successful leaders must be able to act and reflect. All leaders (all people) have blind spots, and developing the ability to self-reflect and accept critical feedback is crucial for overcoming them. In short, successful leaders are highly motivated to work on themselves.
Is it too late to learn? No!!
In fact emotional intelligence increases with age, some like to call it wisdom or maturity. That being said, even mature leaders need training in EI. The problem, however, with most training programs designed to teach EI is that they don’t deliver real change. EI training cannot be taught in a workshop or training seminar, it requires an individualized approach where behavioral traits can be examined honestly and modified. This requires time, persistence and practice, which is where coaches come in really handy. Having a coach shadow you throughout the day is an excellent way to become aware of behavioral traits that might not be working for you. In this way you will be consistently reminded of where, when and with whom you get off track.
Most leaders who are truly dedicated to improving their emotional intelligence demand a candid assessment of their strengths and weaknesses from trusted people who know them well. This may seem straight forward enough, but the sad truth is that it rarely happens. Most leaders may say that they are interested in honest feedback, but the fact is many lack the courage and inner fortitude to accept receiving information that may crack their persona of “I’ve got it all under control.” This is unfortunate.
Rapidly changing realities (political, economic, social and technological) require flexibility and a new breed of leader. Emotionally intelligent leaders have the ability to manage themselves in the face of unpredictable change. They are able to remain focused and clear under pressure. They understand that anxiety destroys their ability to assimilate information quickly and respond, and that fear closes down their creative thinking and decision-making skills. Emotional Intelligence is a skill that aspiring successful leaders cannot ignore. It can be learned and it provides lasting personal and professional rewards. All it takes is a sincere desire to improve, persistence, the courage to receive candid feedback, and a good coach wouldn’t hurt.
Tommy Weir and Christine Crumrine are from the Beirut-based CrumrineWeir, the global leadership experts.