Learn to Lead More Effectively Through Emotional Intelligence

By: Sheri Dresser

Since the early 1900’s, there have been many models and much research presented on the subject of Emotional Intelligence. Daniel Goleman has been credited in spreading the concept of emotional intelligence (EI) into the mainstream culture, with a particularly big impact in business.  I remember reading his first groundbreaking book, “Emotional Intelligence” in 1995.  It was a best seller that he updated in the 10th anniversary edition released in 2006.  Admittedly, I read it many years ago.  Upon being asked to write on the subject of emotional intelligence, I realized the need to do some additional research.

What IS emotional intelligence, anyway?

According to Wikipedia, the definition of Emotional Intelligence (EI) is “the ability to identify, assess and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups…” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_Intelligence.   However, there is no conclusive agreement on the definition of emotional intelligence among psychologists and researchers.  What it is, how to measure it and how to apply it varies widely.

What makes an effective leader?

Goleman asserts that, from his research of 250 successful leaders, the results showed that “the most effective leaders have one thing in common:  “a high degree of emotional intelligence.”   A leader can have tremendous skills, experience and training, but if they don’t have learned competency in EI, they won’t make a great leader.  A great leader works and leads through emotions.  (adaptation from the Harvard Business Review)

Goleman identifies four core workplace competencies of emotional intelligence that most leaders exhibit in the workplace.  Research is showing that EI is learned behavior, and that people can learn how to develop their emotional intelligence in the competency areas of:

* Self-awareness
* Self-management
* Social awareness
* Relationship management

Consider some of the specific areas of those competencies to determine specific areas where you may need to change or develop your leadership style further, including:

* how to be honest with yourself and others
* how to think positively
* how to turn anger into something constructive
* how to be courageous
* how to be comfortable with change or ambiguity
* how to control impulsive behavior
* how to develop empathy for others
* the importance of building rapport and a wide network
* how to deal with and manage moods and more

Other View’s

John Maxwell, acclaimed leadership speaker and presenter, wrote best seller The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (Follow Them and People Will Follow You).  Based on his years of leadership experience, John outlines what he considers to be 21 timeless leadership laws” that he says anyone would need to learn and follow in order to become a great leader in any area of life.

Maxwell states in his Law of Connection – Leaders Touch a Heart Before they Touch a Hand, “You can’t move people to action unless you first move them with emotion.  The heart comes before the head….People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Pastor, author and speaker Andy Stanley, in his book, Enemies of the Heart, Breaking Free from the Four Emotions that Control You, writes about four basic core emotions.  These core emotions, listed below, “result in a debt-to-debtor dynamic that always causes an imbalance in any relationship.”

* Guilt
* Anger
* Greed
* Jealousy

Stanley asserts that these emotions, unchecked and unresolved, steadily build up over time and create increasingly tremendous tension and stress.  They are actually emotional debts in relationships that build up over time.  Two of the most insidious are:

* Guilt = “I owe you” – If you have done something you perceive as wrong toward someone else, you feel guilt because you feel indebted to that person.  If the feeling of goes on a long time, it just builds up and the tension becomes almost unbearable – because the debt is always there.
* Anger = “You owe me” –   the result of not getting something you want or you feel that you deserve from someone else. If it goes on unchecked, and not dealt with in an appropriate way, anger can turn into aggression, hostility and even hate.

The only way to diffuse or resolve the imbalance, says Stanley, is that “someone has to pay up, or someone has to cancel the debt.  As long as the debt is unpaid or unforgiven, the debt governs the relationship”.  He goes on to discuss how to confront these powerful emotions, how to turn imbalances around for good, and develop effective habits and strategies to learn how to make a true change of heart.

So, how can you develop your emotional intelligence?

Good news!  Emotional intelligence can be learned. But the competencies must be continuously studied, learned, developed and employed over time to be effective.

Recommended resources for additional study of emotions in leadership:

* The Bible – (study of examples of leaders and their emotions in all of the books, especially in Job, Nehemiah, Daniel, Proverbs and more)
* Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman
* Enemies of the Heart (Breaking Free from the Four Emotions that Control You) – by Andy Stanley
* Boundaries – by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
* The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (Follow Them and People Will Follow You) – by John Maxwell.

My view:

While there are good points to consider, learn and employ in a leadership capacity from a study on the subject of emotional intelligence, the spiritual aspect of the emotions we have been given is the most important.  It is the basic and foundational reason why we have an innate bias toward emotions such as empathy and compassion.  It is also why we have an innate propensity toward emotions such as guilt, anger, fear, etc.  The spiritual aspect transcends the unending, flawed research and psychology of man and is definitely worthy of further study in the quest to become an effective leader.

1 (Excerpt from “What Makes a Leader” by Daniel Goleman, best of Harvard Business Review, 1998)

Sheri Dresser is a Senior Talent Acquisition Consultant who helps companies find, recruit and hire top talent.  You can find her on LinkedIn, Twitter or at Dresser Search and Consulting.