By Dana Gillis, Executive Coach — The term emotional intelligence is often bandied about by academics, practitioners, and influencers of public opinion. It’s touted as a panacea for organizational ills caused by poor leadership. Let’s examine exactly what emotional intelligence (EI) means, how to measure EI, and how to develop EI skills on the path to more effective leadership.
Daniel Goleman’s writings on emotional intelligence serve as a roadmap for the way in which people interact with each other, relative to emotional stimuli. According to him, “The ability to manage yourself — to have self-awareness and self-regulation — is the very basis of managing others, in many ways.” Innate human responses to the way we communicate with each other have many gradations of reaction between positive and negative ends of a response spectrum. Emotional intelligence allows a leader to make conscious decisions about how she or he responds to incoming emotion-laden stimuli. To choose a response rather than an unreasoned reaction. So consider emotional intelligence as a “reasoned response” to an emotionally charged challenge.
Where Can I Get Some of That?
Like any proficiency, emotional intelligence is an essential leadership skill that you can grow . . . if you know what emotional intelligence skills you already possess.
According to Marcel Schwantes, there are three indicators that a leader possesses that holiest of leadership grails, emotional intelligence: responding to issues rather than reacting to them, exercising self-awareness, and maintaining the ability to manage personal emotions. These are the foundational building blocks that lead to emotionally intelligent leadership. Let’s look at how to measure emotional intelligence and find your “emotional quotient” or EQ.
Measure EI: Response
As a leader, what happens when you’re presented with a stress-inducing situation? How do you know you’re under stress? How does stress physically manifest itself? Are the decisions you make under pressure the same as decisions you would make under calmer conditions? If you know the answers to these fundamental questions, you can leverage that knowledge to take stock of a situation. You can then respond appropriately, rather than reacting to circumstances as if you have no control or influence.
Measure EI: Self-awareness
The ability to empathize with others is an attribute highly indicative of emotional intelligence. However, the self-aware leader must be careful in relying on empathy. This ensures maintaining enough emotional distance to prevent being pulled into and/or becoming part of the issue to be solved. When a member of the team is in a bit of an “emotional hole,” the self-aware leader is keen to keep from jumping into the hole with them — which would require the rescue of not one, but two souls.
Measure EI: Managing Emotions
The third indicator of the presence of emotional intelligence is the ability to manage personal emotions. This ability is intimately connected to responding, rather than reacting, to issues. A self-aware leader has developed the capability to identify an emotion or feeling related to environmental input. More importantly, they then exercise the ability to respond in an emotionally responsible fashion.
EI and Fearless Leadership
Response overreaction, self-awareness, and managing emotions are three key indicators of emotional intelligence. Leaders who can measure EI in themselves and identify these emotional intelligence skills are already on the path to better leadership. Fortunately, self-reflection, time, and practice at mastering those skills can set any leader on the road to emotional intelligence and Fearless Leadership.
There’s a lot of talk surrounding emotional intelligence . . . do you have a good working definition? Here’s ours: “The ability to accurately identify emotions in ourselves and others, understand and manage our own emotions, and use and effectively communicate emotions and feelings.” Fearless Leaders know that EI matters!