The debate around IQ verses Emotional Intelligence (EI) has been hotly debated for some time with many arguing that, to be a good leader, you need both – and fairly equally.
Research would suggest however, that EI is far more fundamental to being a good leader than IQ. Whilst we do need a modicum of intelligence to be successful in business, a good leader i.e. someone who is respected in their leadership role, needs to be really quite adept at managing emotional intelligence too.
Some leaders may have reportedly genius level IQ their social skills, empathy and understanding of emotional triggers, and how to respond to them can be somewhat lacking.The good news for those, and any other leader, is that IF you want to improve your emotional intelligence, you can. There are clear, tangible strategies that you can employ to develop your emotional intelligence and, when practiced, these can translate into demonstrable leadership behaviours.
Daniel Goleman popularised EI in 1995 with his breakout book, ‘Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ’ and he has developed his work on EI over the years to identify four key components:
Goleman’s first component is about having an Inner Focus – that awareness of who you are, what you stand for (your values) and what drives you.
To boost this element, you need to really understand what your key values are (such as fairness, integrity) and conversely what your emotional triggers are (people being unfair or lacking integrity). Say one of your core values is respect and then someone shows disrespect to you or someone you care about? You might find yourself emotionally hijacked. But, in knowing that about yourself, you would be able to turn down your emotional reaction and remind yourself that you can’t hold others to the same standards you have for yourself. It enables us to move forward without inappropriate or unnecessary confrontation. We can communicate with the person that we don’t particularly like what they have just said, but can have a reasoned discussion with them, rather than an emotional outburst.
Which brings us very neatly onto Goleman’s second component.
Managing your emotions is often about what you say to yourself when you experience an emotional response, and that can be a negative or a positive dialogue. Your emotions, and their physiological affect, can influence how you react to everyday events and they can determine how adaptable or resilient you are.
If you feel fear, you can experience the classic ‘fight or flight’ response. Being able to have an internal dialogue helps manage the situation. If you’re being attacked, having a flight response would seem reasonable. But if you’re wanting to run screaming from giving a presentation, then a more thorough examination of your response is needed.
You could ask yourself ‘Where is this fear coming from? What do I want protection from? In what way could I manage this?’
It’s important to remember that emotional states are usually there for a reason, the hormones they release can calm us down (in the case of love) or keep us safe (in the case of sadness, which makes us want to stay inside, curled up on the sofa). Sometimes being able to simply label the emotion for what it is and sit with it, without judgement, is enough.
Understanding your own feelings and reactions are the first fundamentals to EI. Understanding others is the next and links to what Goleman calls having an ‘Other’ Focus. Empathy is about understanding how people think, how they feel, and helping them if you can.
An interesting perspective on our ability to demonstrate and feel empathy comes from Carl Jung’s seminal work on Psychological Types (1923) – the cornerstone for many modern-day personality profiles such as Myers Briggs & Insights Discovery – and, in particular, the dichotomy of ‘Thinkers’ and ‘Feelers’. Feelers process emotions by associating into them. They imagine how they would feel in someone else’s shoes. They might even feel the emotion that they are imagining. Thinkers can understand what the person is feeling, but they dissociate themselves from it, focussing on trying to fix the issue instead.
As a result, a Thinker could be forgiven for believing that they can’t ‘do empathy’ as they don’t feel anyone’s emotions. That’s not true at all. As a Thinker, they may step back from feeling others’ emotions whilst still understanding what they are feeling, and doing their best to help them, in whatever capacity they needed.
At the end of the day, empathic leaders are usually the ones that ask you how you are, enquire about your family and your weekend. They will want to understand what drives you, what your strengths and weaknesses are, what your own goals are and then will try and support you to achieve them.
4. Relationship Management
Sometimes when a manager asks you how you are, they are not necessarily being empathic. If they quickly dismiss your response and then go on to ask you to do something for them, they are probably less interested in how you are but more what you can do for them. This may not come from a bad place more simply from the time restrictions and pressure that can come from being a people manager. We would call this a ‘transactional relationship’.
And so to the final, fundamental, component of emotional intelligence, that of building ‘transformational relationships’, based upon authentic connections.
A good leader develops long term connections and relationships that change both parties for the better, with the ability to give and receive feedback. They also have a big picture perspective, what Goleman called an Outer Focus – to have a firm grasp on organisational or environmental strategy, objectives & purpose – to know how we all fit and work within it.
Inner, Other, Outer Focus
Anyone can develop their emotional intelligence. We can all work at understanding ourselves and others better. We can all learn to listen to others and support them where we can.
To be a great manager, and a great leader, you need to have a good level of emotional intelligence. But you need a little extra as well. You need to be able to look at yourself, and the people around you, and relate it all to the bigger picture.
All the information that you have gathered as part of your emotional intelligence – the strengths and weaknesses of you and your team, the values you stand for, the drivers and the triggers – all these pieces of information can be used to develop overarching strategies and achieve organisational goals. You and your team can work together to understand how you are going to work together to achieve the individual and organisational objectives.