term was coined as recently as 1990 by John D. Mayer of UNH and Peter Salovey of Yale, emotional intelligence and its impact on leadership and communication is now well understood. Unfortunately, many organizations lack the tools, or more accurately, the parameters, to measure whether leaders are showing emotional intelligence.
What is Emotional Intelligence in Leadership?
In 1995, Daniel Goleman brought emotional intelligence to business, with a book of the same name. His theory, which was rapidly adopted by businesses across the United States, was that the ability to understand your and others’ emotions, was a valuable and even necessary skill for leaders and people management.
He hypothesized that a good leader must show emotional intelligence through 5 traits including self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation (passion beyond money and status), empathy, and social skills. Armed with these 5 emotional skills, a leader could surpass those showing any level of technical skill or intelligence by guiding employees, building bonds with those he’s working with, and establishing better trust and communication.
Why? Leaders have to guide and move people. Being good at what they do is not enough to motivate and inspire others. Emotional intelligence bridges that gap.
Measuring Emotional Intelligence
While emotional intelligence has traditionally been difficult to measure, competency frameworks give you the tools to recognize which behaviors positively influence a role, and how they do so. By creating a framework of what success looks like in a role, you can actively measure when leaders are fulfilling those obligations.
- Emotional self-control
- Achievement orientation
- Helping others to succeed
- Positive outlook
- Organizational awareness
- Influencing others
- Coaching and mentoring
- Conflict management
- Inspiring others
How Emotional Intelligence Impacts Leadership
How do these competencies play out in a real-world situation? The simplest idea is that a leader is managing a team. Let’s say she assigns a large task to one person who says they can take it on. The task has a hard deadline but the employee assigned to it is struggling and says so.
Option A: The manager gets angry, if they couldn’t do it why did they say they could, does the work themselves and turns it in by deadline.
Option B: The manager reviews the situation and gives the employee guidance, encouraging them to complete the task. The manager offers some assistance from another employee, available on demand to ensure the project is completed on time. The employee uses the advice to finish the job on time and is extremely motivated by their finishing it
In these scenarios, both achieve the same result. The project is completed on time. But, option B is significantly more beneficial for organizations because it a) allows the manager to continue doing their own work not the employee’s, b) motivates and inspires employees c) builds employees up rather than tearing them down.
Similarly, if employee information were changed, and the employee goes to the manager to say that his wife was in a terrible car accident, he’s stressed and would like to go stay at the hospital with her instead of finishing the project. A leader might say no, the project needs to be done and you volunteered, it’s a tight deadline and there’s no time to move it to someone else. An emotionally intelligent leader would do everything in their power to move the work to someone else or do it themselves – building employee loyalty, ensuring the quality of the project, and motivating the employee for future projects.
So, emotional intelligence allows leaders to make choices that actively benefit the organization in the long-term.