The strongest leaders have the most emotional intelligence

Strong leaders want to become even stronger and better at delivering bottom-line results. It’s the soft skills of leaders that produce hard results. The most effective leaders possess the highest Emotional Intelligence. The qualities often associated with leadership, toughness, determination and intelligence, are not enough for success. Even more important are self-knowledge, self-control, motivation, empathy and social skill. Furthermore, the organization’s culture does matter and cultures that value “soft skills” create more successful results in both financial terms and human capital terms.

In his 1995 book “Emotional Intelligence”, Daniel Goleman brought the term into common usage. He then applied EI concepts to business, publishing his research in HBR in 1998. He also founded the EI Consortium, an international organization of researchers and professionals, which he co-chairs. The EI Consortium reports on the relationship between emotional intelligence and business performance, especially for leaders.

EI accounts for a significant 30% of an employee’s general occupational performance – with technical skills accounting for the balance. The EI Consortium found that those with the highest EI were the best recruiters for the Air Force. After EI training, accidents and grievances fell dramatically for a manufacturing company. Financial advisors, who received EI training, were materially more productive, generating higher revenues in the following year. Numerous other examples tie EI directly to business success.

For leaders, EI is even more important. A whopping two-thirds of their effectiveness is related to EI. In fact, Goleman’s original research found that EI made THE difference between star senior leaders and average ones: “The higher the rank of a person considered to be a star performer, the more emotional intelligence capabilities showed up as the reason for his or her effectiveness…nearly 90% of the difference in their profiles was attributable to emotional intelligence factors rather than cognitive abilities.”

What are the qualities that comprise EI?   Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skill. Self-awareness gives you perspective on your behaviors and processes — you objectively observe your emotions, actions and motivations. Self- regulation, allows you to manage your emotions — you control disruptive inclinations and feelings. Motivation is the drive to learn and become better. Motivation involves optimism in the face of failure and the willingness to learn from disappointments. Empathy enables you to recognize and understand the emotions of others and the ability to treat them accordingly. You place yourself in the other person’s shoes. Social skill allows you to build and navigate social networks. Through clear and consistent communication, leaders build trust.

You may want to focus on increasing your own EI skills or those of your team. Like so many other behaviors, EI can be improved through motivation, learning and simply the desire to change. EI qualities should be thought of as good habits that are formed over time through extended practice and feedback. Observing others known to have strong EI skills and seeking their advice can help.   Internal or external coaches, classes and seminars are other avenues that provide value. It is important to remember that improving EI is not a one-time learning event. It is through regular practice that it becomes second nature and truly impactful habits that lead to effective and respected leadership.

Stuart R. Levine

Stuart R. Levine

Founded in 1996, Stuart Levine & Associates LLC is an international strategic planning and leadership development company with focus on adding member value by strengthening corporate culture. SL&A ... Web: Details