In this guest piece, Kate Chaffer (pictured below), co-founder and director of organisational development consultancy Culture Zone, explores the benefits of having a well-developed emotional intelligence – both for the individual and for the organisation.
At the World Business Forum last week, I felt lucky to hear from the world’s indisputable authority on emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman.
His contributions to the field of psychology have had a transformational impact on the world of business and beyond. He has been named by the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times as one of their most influential business thinkers, and is the author of numerous bestselling books including Emotional Intelligence and Focus.
The Harvard Business Review called emotional intelligence— which discounts IQ as the sole measure of one’s abilities — “a revolutionary, paradigm-shattering idea” and chose his article ‘What Makes a Leader’ as one of 10 must-read articles from its pages.
His 2014 bestseller, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, argues that the leadership that gets results demands a triple focus: on our ourselves; on others, for our relationships; and on the outer forces that shape organisations and society.
His presentation focused on: the competencies necessary for self-management and high performance; harnessing the power of self-awareness and using it as a building block for professional development; and how to cultivate the internal and interpersonal integration necessary to be a wise leader.
Goleman lived up to his reputation and delivered an authentic and wise talk that highlighted the essential ingredients for leadership and organisations to prosper in highly complex and constantly changing world.
He explained that EQ can help us become better people, equipped to handle ourselves in difficult situations in leadership roles and our relationships. Goleman believes that when we focus on others, our world expands.
His research has clearly found that the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way – they all have a high degree of emotional intelligence. While IQ and technical skills matter, and are important entry-level requirements for positions, it is the EQ competencies that make the difference.
It is believed that truly effective leaders are distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence, which includes four domains: self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness and relationship management. There are 12 specific and learnable competencies that fall within these four areas.
Self-awareness is about having a deep understanding of one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs, and drives. People with strong self-awareness are neither overly critical nor unrealistically hopeful. Rather, they are honest – with themselves and with others. People with a high degree of self-awareness recognise how their feelings affect them, other people, and their job performance. Self-awareness extends to a person’s understanding of their values and goals, knowing where they are headed and why. They have what Goleman described as a “felt sense” that guides decision making and a natural wisdom. With greater self-awareness, you are more likely to be doing “good work” that speaks to your natural strengths, and can extend to higher levels of excellence, engagement and integrity in one’s work and life.
Self-regulation is the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and bad moods – the propensity to suspend judgement and think before acting. Biological impulses drive our emotions, and sometimes we are guilty of falling back to our childish ways when the amygdala part of our brain takes over. This part of the brain can get us emotionally hijacked, and Golemen mentioned the five symbolic threats that can often set us off: lack of respect, not feeling appreciated, not feeling heard, not treated fairly, and feeling blamed for something we didn’t do. During these moments, you will still feel angry or anxious or annoyed, but EQ intercepts and you find ways to control them and even to channel them in useful ways.
Goleman focused on the importance of self-regulation is this complex, forever-changing and technically switched on world. Getting time to reflect through mindfulness, putting aside technology, focusing on the person at hand with full attention, and listening with empathy are all important ways to ensure we act with the best of intentions and according to our values. He spoke how technology intrudes constantly, and lots of information can lead to poverty of attention, which ultimately impacts our interactions and relationships.
The signs of emotional self-regulation include: a propensity for reflection and thoughtfulness, comfort with ambiguity and change, and integrity and an ability to say no to impulsive urges.
It was once thought that the components of emotional intelligence were nice to have in business. But now we know that, for the sake of performance, relationships, wellbeing and engagement, these are ingredients that leaders need to have.
It is fortunate then that emotional intelligence can be learned. It takes time and, most of all, commitment. But the benefits that come from having a well-developed emotional intelligence – both for the individual and for the organisation – make it worth the effort.