Recently I gave a seminar for the top 100 or so leaders of a global manufacturing company, at the invitation of the head of HR. It was their annual leadership development meeting, and HR wanted me to make both business and scientific cases for emotional intelligence as the active ingredient in strong leadership.
For instance, confidence in one form or another often shows up in these models. And a sense of certainty in one’s own abilities, based on a realistic understanding of your own strengths and limitations, requires self-awareness – the first tenet of emotional intelligence.
Then there’s staying calm under pressure, another common ingredient of leadership success. That requires self-management, the second trait of emotional intelligence – and one that builds on self-awareness. Other commonly seen self-management competencies include adaptability, initiative, and the drive to achieve goals.
I’ve never seen a list of a great leader’s abilities that did not include impactful communication. And that requires empathy – the third domain of emotional intelligence. There are two specific kinds of empathy; one is cognitive empathy, understanding how others think about the world. Once you know their mental models you can put what you have to say in terms that will make most sense to them.
The second kind, emotional empathy, means you can sense immediately how another person feels. This means you can fine-tune what you say so it has a positive impact. These two kinds of empathy are essential for rapport and chemistry with another person. We use them in all our relationships.
So when I looked at the competence model of that manufacturing company what did I find?About 80-90 percent of the abilities they had independently determined make leaders high-performing were based on EI. A handful were purely cognitive, like analytic abilities. But because the brain’s design makes our emotional state determine our cognitive efficiency, even those indirectly depend on emotional intelligence.
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