Developing Emotional Intelligence Correctly
July 20, 2021 | BY Simcha Felder
Last month I discussed emotional intelligence, a research-proven and incredibly reliable indicator of an individual’s overall business success. Popularized by Dr. Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence (EI) is defined as the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as recognize and influence the emotions of those around you.
In his research, focusing on nearly 200 large companies, Goleman found that the most effective leaders were those with a high degree of emotional intelligence. He also found that at the highest levels of these companies, where differences in technical skills are of negligible importance, EI played an even greater role in determining the success and productivity of leaders and their teams.
As emotional intelligence has grown into a must-have skill for businesses, two major issues have arisen with its application. First, many people who learn about EI, often simplify the concept into merely being “nice.” Secondly, business leaders often believe that by learning about EI at a seminar or online workshop (or by reading a couple of articles), they have done enough to become emotionally intelligent.
As outlined in last month’s article, the components of emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Clearly, none of these components are the same as “niceness.” While being nicer to others and more empathetic can be a result of developing EI, believing that EI is synonymous with “niceness” will obscure and minimize many important traits of emotional intelligence.
In the competitive business world, “niceness” can sometimes be described as someone who tries to avoid conflict. For leaders who might be conflict-averse, it can be difficult to clearly explain to employees what is expected of them. These leaders can often be easily manipulated and taken advantage of by employees who do not want to work hard or who want to accomplish goals that are different from their employer’s objectives.
Being proficient in each of the four components of emotional intelligence can allow leaders to develop the skills to be confrontational when necessary, but to do so more strategically and productively. It encourages leaders to have powerful, productive conversations that build up their ability to influence and lead.
Recognizing that emotional intelligence is more than just “being nice” is important, but so is understanding that the skills, attitudes, and behaviors which compose EI must be continuously worked on and practiced. Remember that genuine leaders are not just born. It takes many years of hard work and the ability to learn from difficulties and disappointments to become an effective leader. In the rush to get ahead, many would-be leaders skip important personal developmental steps. Some of these people get to the top of companies through sheer determination and aggressiveness or by their brilliant technical skills. However, when they finally reach the leader’s chair, they are very ineffective because they never worked on their personal development.
Developing emotional intelligence is about more than just training and learning the vocabulary. It takes commitment and practice. Everyone can, theoretically, change, but few people are seriously willing to try. Good coaching and training are helpful and valuable tools. Accurate assessments are also an important part of the equation. In the end though, business leaders must commit to changing and practicing that commitment every day. Developing EI is not about being perfect, but about being more emotionally intelligent more of the time.