EI and Leadership

As a leader, you set the emotional tone that others follow. Our brains are hardwired to cue in (both consciously and unconsciously) to others’ emotional states. This is particularly true for leaders. People want to know how a leader feels and will synchronize with authorities they trust.

The emotional tone that permeates your organization starts with you as a leader, and it depends entirely on your emotional intelligence, or EI. When employees feel upbeat, they’ll go the extra mile to please customers. There’s a predictable business result: For every 1% improvement in the service climate, there’s a 2% increase in revenue.

The table that follows, provided by TalentSmart’s Dr. Travis Bradbury, contrasts the behaviors of high-EI vs. low-EI leaders:

Leaders with Low EI Leaders with High EI
Sound off even when it won’t help Only speak out when doing so helps the situation
Brush off people when bothered Keep lines of communication open, even when frustrated
Deny that emotions impact their thinking Recognize when other people are affecting their emotional state
Get defensive when challenged Are open to feedback
Focus only on tasks and ignore the person Show others they care about them
Are oblivious to unspoken tension Accurately pick up on the room’s mood

CEOs Score Low EI

Measures of EI in half a million senior executives, managers and employees across industries, on six continents, reveal some interesting data. Scores climb with titles, from the bottom of the ladder upward toward middle management, where EI peaks. Mid-managers have the highest EI scores in the workforce. After that, EI scores plummet.

Because leaders achieve organizational goals through others, you may assume they have the best people skills. Wrong! CEOs, on average, have the lowest workplace EI scores.

Too many leaders are promoted for their technical knowledge, discrete achievements and seniority, rather than for their skills in managing and influencing others. Once they reach the top, they actually spend less time interacting with staff.

But achieving goals – and high performance – is only part of the formula for leadership success. Great leaders excel at relationship management, influencing people because they’re skilled in forming alliances and persuading others.

EI has a direct bearing on corporate reputation. Boards of directors recognize how it affects stock prices, media coverage, public opinion and a leader’s viability. Look at any corporate disaster or scandal. If leaders cannot genuinely express empathy, it’s that much harder for them to garner trust and support.

A 2001 study by Dr. Fabio Sala (www.eiconsortium.org) demonstrates that senior-level employees are more likely to have inflated views of their EI competencies and less congruence with others’ perceptions.

Sala proposes two explanations for these findings:

  1. It’s lonely at the top. Senior executives have fewer opportunities for feedback.
  2. People are less inclined to give constructive feedback to more senior colleagues.

Nonetheless, EI’s effect on business performance and senior employees’ grandiosity highlight the need for well-executed performance management systems that measure emotional competencies.

One way to improve EI in executives is through leadership coaching. A trusted coach provides necessary feedback that improves the ability to handle emotions. Let me know if you need help in choosing the right coach.

Emotional Intelligence, IQ, Personality and Income

Emotional intelligence taps into a fundamental element of human behavior that is distinct from your intellect. There is no connection between IQ and emotional intelligence. Intelligence is your ability to learn, as well as retrieve and apply knowledge.

Emotional intelligence is a flexible set of skills that can be acquired and improved with practice. While some people are naturally more emotionally intelligent than others, you can develop high emotional intelligence even if you aren’t born with it.

Personality is the stable “style” that defines each of us. It’s the result of hard-wired preferences, such as the inclination toward introversion or extroversion. IQ, emotional intelligence and personality each cover unique ground and help explain what makes us tick.

When we feel good, we work better. Feeling good lubricates mental efficiency, facilitating comprehension and complex decision-making. Upbeat moods help us feel more optimistic about our ability to achieve a goal, enhance creativity and predispose us to being more helpful.

How does emotional intelligence contribute to professional success? The higher you climb the corporate ladder and the more people you supervise, the more your EI skills come into play.

TalentSmart tested EI alongside 33 other important workplace skills and found it to be the strongest predictor of performance, responsible for 58% of success across all job types.

Likewise, more than 90% of top performers in leadership positions possessed a high degree of EI. On the flip side, just 20% of poor performers demonstrated high EI.

Your emotional intelligence is the foundation for a host of critical skills, and it impacts most everything you say and do each day. It strongly drives leadership and personal excellence.

You can be a top performer without emotional intelligence, but it’s rare. People with a high degree of EI make more money – an average of $29,000 more per year than those with low EI.

The link between emotional intelligence and earnings is so well founded that every point increase in EI adds $1,300 to onevs annual salary. These findings hold true for people in all industries, at all levels, in every region of the world.

What do you think about this? I’d love to hear from you.

The Emotional Brain

There’s no escaping our emotions. Whether we like what we feel or not, we’re emotional creatures. Our first reaction to any event is always emotional. We have no control over this part of the process in our brains. We can, however, control the thoughts that follow an emotion, how we react, and what we say and do.

Your reactions are shaped by your personal history, which includes your experiences in similar situations and your personality style. When you develop your emotional intelligence, you’ll learn to spot emotional triggers and practice productive responses.

EI is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships. It affects how you manage behavior, navigate social complexities and make personal decisions that achieve positive results.

There are a couple of popular definitions, but most experts agree that EI is composed of four core skills that are paired under two primary competencies: personal and social.

Emotional Intelligence What I See What I Do
Personal Competence Self-awareness Self-management
Social Competence Social Awareness Relationship Management

Personal competence includes self-awareness and self-management skills that focus on your interactions with other people.

  • Self-Awareness is your ability to perceive your emotions accurately and be aware of them as they happen.
  • Self-Management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions to be flexible and positively direct your behavior.

Social competence is your ability to understand other people’s moods, behavior and motives to improve the quality of your relationships.

  • Social Awareness is your ability to accurately pick up on other people’s emotions and understand what’s really going on.
  • Relationship Management is your ability to use awareness of your and others’ emotions to manage interactions successfully.

While this is a comprehensive explanation of the key components of EI, it boils down to self and others. How well do you manage yourself and your relationships with others? Often, we don’t know this about ourselves.

Leadership’s Link to Emotional Intelligence

More than anyone else, the boss creates the conditions that directly determine people’s ability to work well. ~ Daniel Goleman, Primal Leadership

Ever wonder why some of the most brilliant, well-educated people aren’t promoted, while those with fewer obvious skills climb the professional ladder? Chalk it up to emotional intelligence (EI).

When the concept first emerged in 1995, EI helped explain why people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs more than two-thirds of the time. I see this in the work I do executive coaching. Some of the brightest seem to be lacking when it comes to emotions.

In the United States, experts had assumed that high IQ was key to high performance. Decades of research now point to EI as the critical factor that separates star performers from the rest of the pack.

People have been talking about EI (also called EQ) ever since psychologist Daniel Goleman published the New York Times bestseller Emotional Intelligence in 1995. Everyone agrees that emotional savvy is vital, but we’ve generally been unable to harness its power.

Many of us lack a full understanding of our emotions, let alone others?. We fail to appreciate how feelings fundamentally influence our everyday lives and careers.

Goleman has brought out another book, The Brain and Emotional Intelligence, which helps explain more. It turns out the emotions are an intricate part of decision making. We don’t realize how much of an influence they have over everyday planning and interacting. People with injuries in the emotional center of the brain retain their intelligence or IQ, but are unable to function well when they lack emotional connectivity.

Research by the TalentSmart consulting firm indicates that only 36% of people tested can accurately identify their emotions as they happen. Two-thirds of people are typically controlled by their emotions but remain unskilled at using them beneficially.

Lack of emotional intelligence is a prime reason people engage in corporate coaching.

The Bridge to What Matters

Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose. ~ Helen Keller

Great leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Walt Disney always communicated their “why” – why the reasons they acted, why they cared and their future hopes. Great business leaders follow suit:

  • Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines, believed air travel should be fun and accessible to everyone.
  • Apple’s Steve Wozniak thought everyone should have a computer and, along with Steve Jobs, set out to challenge established corporations’ status quo.
  • Wal-Mart’s Sam Walton believed all people should have access to low-cost goods.
  • Starbucks’ Howard Schultz wanted to create social experiences in cafe’s resembling those in Italy.

Once company leaders have identified and clearly articulated what they stand for, it’s up to you to build a bridge between the business’ purpose and your own values:

  • In what way can you make a difference through company products and services?
  • How can you express what truly matters in the work you do?
  • In what ways can you make a difference in the world through the people you work for and with?

Making a Difference

When you share your greater cause and higher purpose, listeners filter the message and decide to trust you (or not). When listeners’ values and purpose resonate with your own, they are primed to become followers who will favorably perceive subsequent messages.

You cannot gain a foothold in someone’s brain by leading with what you want them to do. You must first communicate why it’s important.

Strive to be like the leaders who never lose sight of why they do what they do and why people should care. Only then will you inspire your people to attain sustainable success.

Leaders are the stewards of organizational energy. They recruit, direct, channel, renew, focus and invest energy from all the individual contributors in the service of the corporate mission. The energy of each individual contributor in the corporation must be actively recruited. This requires aligning individual and organizational purpose. ~ Authors James Loehr and Tony Schwartz, The Power of Full Engagement

I challenge you to think long and hard about both your personal sense of purpose, and your organization’s purpose where you work. Do you see ways of aligning them?

This is clearly a pathway to finding energy and renewing the enthusiasm you probably felt in the early days on the job. If you struggle with finding purpose, I suggest getting a good coach who can help you find more fulfillment and meaning in how you spend your days.

Let me know if I can help.

Want to Inspire? Start with Why

When a mission statement is well written, it serves as a declaration of purpose. But corporate mission statements are often little more than a descriptive sentence about products, aspirations or desired public perceptions. They’re more powerful when they clearly and specifically articulate the difference your business strives to make in the world.

Here’s an example from Roy Spence’s book It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For:

Consider this mission statement by a large grocery chain: “Our goal is to be the first choice for those customers who have the opportunity to shop locally in [our stores]. To achieve this goal [we] aim to be best at fresh, best at availability, best at customer service, best at product and price.”

It’s a long list of what the company will be best at, but nothing about customers, employees, communities or society. Compare that with another food chain’s mission statement:

“To help consumers find foods that offer more nutrition for the calories as they make choices in each department of our stores, thereby helping food shoppers make healthier choices.”

Which statement do you find more engaging? If your mission statement isn’t compelling and engaging, you can’t expect employees to care, can you?

Leaders who want to succeed should straightforwardly communicate what they believe in and why they’re so passionate about their cause, according to business consultant Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (Portfolio, 2010).

Most people know what they do and how they do it, Sinek says, but few communicate why they’re doing it.

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy into why you do it,” he emphasizes.

If you don’t know and cannot communicate why you take specific actions, how can you expect employees to become loyal followers who support your mission?

The world is before you, and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in. ~ James Baldwin, author

I’d love to hear from you: what’s been your experience with the mission statements of the companies you’ve worked for?