Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence

October 30, 2012 at 4:04 pm

 Effective leadership requires flexibility between managerial styles with an emphasis on Emotional Intelligence (EI). The essential task of a leader is to help people work at their best, creating a resonance with those they lead, a neural harmony that facilitates flow.

If you’ve ever experienced a leader who is secretive, indecisive, blaming, arrogant, mistrusting, bad-tempered doubter, then you know the type of boss who makes employees feel uneasy at best and resentful at worst.

Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman offers selected writings describing the elements of EI model of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. These core abilities are the basis for learned workplace competencies that distinguish the most successful leaders.

Competence models for leadership typically consist from 80 to 100 percent on emotional intelligence-based abilities, according to Daniel Goleman, co-founder of the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning. “As the head of research at a global executive search firm put it, ‘CEOs are hired for their intellect and business expertise – and fired for a lack of emotional intelligence.’”

Goleman describes managing with heart that includes mastering the art of the critique, providing feedback that is essential to keeping employees’ efforts on track. He states that criticism is one of the most important tasks a manager has, but also one of the most dreaded and frequently put off. However, criticisms that are given and received well may impact how satisfied people are in their work, with co-workers, and with leaders.

Harsh criticism is one of the worst ways to motivate someone, making them feel threatened and blamed. An employee may feel so demoralized that they no longer try as hard at their work and perhaps most damaging, no longer feel capable of doing well. On the other hand, many managers are too frugal with praise. An artful critique focuses on what a person has done and can do.

The basic belief that leads to optimism is that setbacks or failures are due to circumstances that we can change for the better. Be specific, offer a solution, be present, and empathic – being attuned to the impact of what you say and how you say it, as an opportunity to work together to solve the problem, and not as an adversarial situation.

In Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence, Goleman describes the core components in this model of leadership. Self-awareness is the first component of Emotional Intelligence, to “know thyself.” This extends to understanding your own values and goals, along with the ability to assess oneself realistically. Self-management and self-regulation frees us from being prisoners of our feelings. When we are in control of our feelings and impulses, when we are reasonable, we can create an environment of trust and fairness, which enhances integrity.

“Many of the bad things that happen in companies are a function of impulsive behavior,” explained Goleman. “People rarely plan to exaggerate profits, pad expense accounts, dip into the till, or abuse power for selfish ends. Instead, an opportunity presents itself, and people with low impulse control just say yes.”

Alternatively, managers with emotional self-regulation have a propensity for reflection and thoughtfulness, comfort with ambiguity and change, and an ability to say no to impulsive urges. Effective managers have the trait of being motivated. They mobilize positive emotions to drive themselves toward their goals, driven to achieve beyond their own and everyone else’s expectations.

Empathy remains particularly important today as a component of leadership due to the increasing use of teams, rapid pace of globalization, and the growing need to retain talent. The use of empathy helps managers understand their co-workers and how to give effective feedback.

The element of relationship management includes social skills. This involves friendliness with a purpose: motivating people in the desired direction, whether agreeing on a new marketing strategy or enthusiasm for a new product. Socially skilled people usually have a wide circle of acquaintances, plus a knack for finding common ground with a wide variety of people. They can build rapport with the assumption that nothing important gets done alone. When the time for action arises, they have a network in place, forging and maintaining connections throughout an organization.

Goleman describes six main leadership styles, including visionary (or authoritative), coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and commanding (or coercive). However, only the first four styles consistently have a positive effect on climate and results.

The hallmarks of the authoritative style include a clear vision and enthusiasm. Authoritative leadership maximizes commitment to the organization’s goals and strategy. When providing criticism, the singular criterion is whether or not performance furthers the organization’s vision.

The coaching style helps employees identify their unique strengths and weaknesses. These are tied to personal and career aspirations. Coaching leaders encourage employees to establish goals and help them conceptualize a plan for attaining them. When enacting development plans, these managers give plentiful instruction and feedback. Coaching style is used least often, because often leaders think they don’t have time for this process. However, they may find that after a first session, it can take little or no extra time, plus it provides a powerful tool with a positive impact on climate and employee performance.

Affiliative style revolves around people and strives to keep employees happy, building strong emotional bonds which lead to loyalty. This style has a markedly positive effect on communication, giving employees the freedom to complete their jobs in the way they think is most effective.

Democratic style spends time getting people’s ideas and buy-in to the organization’s plan. By permitting employees to have a say in decisions that affect goals and how they do their work, the democratic leader drives up responsibility and flexibility.

Goleman emphasizes the leaders need many styles and effectively have mastered four or more to create the best climate and business performance. EI leaders are encouraged to expand their repertory of styles or build a team with members who employ other styles. He also describes the group IQ or the sum total of skills and talents of those involved. The key to high group IQ is social harmony. To thrive, corporations would do well to boost their collective emotional intelligence.

Throughout these selected writings, Goleman encourages managers to become socially intelligent leaders through managing relationships and realizing responsibility for how they shape the feelings of their co-workers. Leaders who spread bad moods are simply bad for business while those who pass along good moods help drive a business’ success. His research and examples illustrate how Emotional Intelligence core abilities are learned workplace competencies that distinguish the most successful leaders.

Debbie Fuehrer, LPCC
Coordinator/Counselor, Mind-Body Medicine
General Internal Medicine

Entry filed under: Book Notes.

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