What distinguishes great leaders from just adequate ones? It isn’t IQ or technical ability. It’s emotional intelligence, the ability to monitor your feelings and those of others to guide your thinking and behavior.
Technical skills and smartness do matter, of course, but emotional intelligence is twice as important for jobs at all levels. And in the top tier, it accounts for nearly 90% of the difference between average and star performers and it make sense, since all the great leaders i know off, do have exception EI or at least to be so.
Studies also show a strong link between emotional intelligence and bottom-line results. At one company, divisions whose senior managers scored high in emotional intelligence beat their yearly earnings goals by 20%. Divisions without such leaders under-performed by almost as much.
Psychologist Daniel Goleman identified five components of emotional intelligence. In summary the 5-components are:-
- Self-regulation, controlling disruptive impulses and thinking before acting
- Fairness & trust
- Personal motivation (self-driven)
- Social Skill
The first is self-awareness. This means thoroughly understanding yourself and your effect on others. For example, a self-aware person who struggles with deadlines plans ahead. Self-aware employees welcome feedback. Another sign is a self-deprecating sense of humor: people who admit to failure easily and with a smile. Self-aware people know their abilities and play to their strengths, but they don’t overreach and aren’t afraid to ask for help.
Leaders who see themselves clearly also see their companies clearly. But it’s easy to overlook self-awareness when sizing up potential leaders. You might assume that someone who admits to shortcomings isn’t “tough enough” to lead, when in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders must constantly judge capabilities, in themselves and in others.
Here’s how one manager showed her self-awareness. She was skeptical about a new service at the store where she worked, but realized that her skepticism was fueled by disappointment because she hadn’t been tapped to lead the rollout. Instead of sulking, she explained this to her boss and her team, asking them to bear with her while she processed her feelings. They did so and she threw her support behind the project.
The second component of emotional intelligence is self-regulation, controlling disruptive impulses and thinking before acting. For example, a manager whose team has botched a big presentation might want to pound the table in anger. But if he has a gift for self-regulation, he’ll consider the reasons for the failure, share his thoughts with the team, and propose a solution.
Leaders who control their feelings create an atmosphere of fairness and trust. This reduces politics and infighting, so productivity is higher. It also draws talented people in, and curbs unethical behavior.
If there’s one trait that virtually all great leaders have, it’s motivation, the third component of emotional intelligence. Motivated people are driven to achieve beyond expectations, not for money or status, but because they’re passionate about their work. Motivated people also want to be “stretched” and are always raising the performance bar. And they’re optimistic, even when the going gets tough.
One portfolio manager whose fund took a dive lost three large institutional clients. Some people would have blamed external circumstances; others might have taken it as a personal failure. Instead, this manager saw a chance to prove she could lead a turnaround, and that optimism paid off.
Someone who sets the bar high for himself will do the same for his company, and the drive to exceed goals is often contagious.
We’ve all seen the fourth component, empathy, in a sensitive teacher or friend. Empathetic people read between the lines of what’s said, and this makes them especially good at understanding and supporting group dynamics. Empathy doesn’t mean trying to please everybody. That’s impossible. But it does mean considering other people’s feelings when making decisions.
Empathy is more crucial now than ever, for three reasons: the prevalence of teams, the rapid pace of globalization, and the growing need to attract and retain talent. Teams are cauldrons bubbling with emotions, and a leader has to make sense of all them if the team is going to collaborate well. Empathy is also paramount in the global economy. Misunderstandings can flare up quickly when people’s basic assumptions differ, and empathy provides an antidote. Empathetic people have a good feel for cultural differences, and gain understanding from body language and other cues.
Empathy is also crucial to retaining talent. Studies show that coaching and mentoring pay off not just in performance but also in increased satisfaction and decreased turnover. Consider what happened when two brokerage firms merged. The manager of one division gave a gloomy speech to his team, fretting that lots of jobs were sure to be cut. Not surprisingly, many people were demoralized and quit. A more empathic manager expressed his concerns calmly, and he promised to keep people informed and treat everyone fairly. His division remained productive — and the best people stayed.
The last component of emotional intelligence is social skill. This isn’t simply friendliness, it’s friendliness with a purpose, and it draws on all of the other four components. Socially skilled people are great at building and leading teams, that’s their empathy at work. They’re also expert persuaders, because their self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy tell them when to make an emotional plea, for instance, and when to appeal to reason. And they’re excellent collaborators: Their passion for the work spreads to others, and their motivation drives them to find solutions.
Remember that social skill can be tricky to spot. You might think an employee chatting in the hall is wasting time — maybe he’s talking to someone who isn’t even connected to his job. But socially skilled people don’t arbitrarily limit their relationships. They know they might need help tomorrow from someone they are just meeting today.
You probably know people who are strong in some of the five areas of emotional intelligence, but sadly lacking in others. This raises the question: Is emotional intelligence a fixed quality, or can it be learned? Fortunately, although science reveals a strong genetic component, that’s not the whole story.
In one case, an executive named Ed was dismayed to realize that his employees were terrified of him to the point of withholding bad news. So he made a concerted effort to change his behavior. First, he traveled to a country where he did not speak the language and monitored his openness to people different from him. Back at the office, Ed had a coach shadow him and critique his interactions. He had himself videotaped in meetings and asked employees for feedback about his responses to others. After several months, Ed’s emotional intelligence was noticeably higher, and this was reflected in his overall performance.
It takes enormous commitment and work to cultivate emotional intelligence, but the benefits of more than repay the effort. For today’s leaders, this quality is not a “nice to have” — it’s a “need to have.”