In a corporate world where performing well in business was assumed to be the domain of the conventionally ‘smart’ (those with a high IQ), the concept that EI was the real secret sauce to success was a breath of fresh air. It was eagerly adopted in business circles and is now widely accepted as an essential management skill.
The four elements of Emotional Intelligence
EI can be broken down into four key elements:
- Self Awareness
The ability to recognise your own emotional reactions as they happen
- Self Management
The ability to regulate those emotional responses to gain a better outcome
- Social Awareness
The ability to read the emotional signals of others
- Relationship Management
The ability to use these skills to better manage the situation and the ongoing relationship.
Developing skills in all four quadrants creates the social and emotional intelligence that is crucial to leadership. The benefits have been well documented.
Not everyone agrees
The benefits of EI in regard to leadership have been well documented but the concept is not without controversy.
Dr John Antonakis openly disputes the validity of emotional intelligence measurement in a number of research papers, arguing that there is a distinct lack of empirical evidence. He also suggests that higher levels of emotional awareness could actually obstruct a leader’s potential by getting bogged down by emotions.
Despite some inadequacies in the development of the emotional intelligence model, leadership is based on relationships and influence, and therefore emotional awareness and empathy must be key factors in higher achievement.
Emotional Intelligence for modern leadership
You can have the best degree in the world and the IQ of a genius, but if you don’t understand emotions and their impact on people and performance, you’ll have difficulty in business today.
It wasn’t always so. Not long ago, the workplace was a hierarchical and combative arena (some would argue it still is), dominated by leaders with aggressive personalities and a “do as I say” mentality.
Fortunately, we are evolving into an empowered, team-based culture where the most successful leaders take the role of supportive coach.
Authentic leadership is based on honest and ethical relationships and also influence. Authentic leaders need highly tuned human skills including compassion, empathy and understanding of both the self and others, and this is what EI brings.
Emotional Intelligence in the online world
At the time Goleman’s book was published, the World Wide Web was in its infancy. Now, internet-based technologies have revolutionised the way we behave and communicate, bringing as many challenges as opportunities.
Face-to-face interaction is declining as we spend hours every day staring into our computer screens. You could argue that EI is under threat from these solitary hours, navigating intent with a lack of visual communication cues.
But the virtual arena offers us plenty of ways to help us improve our EI. Core skills like co-operation, empathy and understanding can be learned informally through social interactions and gaming, and even digitally delivered structured training.
The future is bringing new possibilities to learning and living an emotionally intelligent life.
A key ingredient of leadership you can add tomorrow
It’s no secret that our contemporary world needs authentic leaders with highly developed relationship skills.
Some people are more naturally in tune with feelings than others, but thankfully, EI is a skill that can be developed by ‘brain training’. Once you learn new behaviours, repeated use forms them into habits, giving you an unconscious advantage.
If you’d like to improve your own Emotional Intelligence skills, we cover EI in the following MCI Solutions Professional Development courses: