Why All Leaders Need Emotional Intelligence

A friend and colleague, whom we will call Martha, recently voluntarily resigned from her new job because she felt disrespected and disliked by her new woman boss, who hired her. Martha is a senior human resources (HR) professional who, after a long and successful career in large multinational businesses, decided to move her career within a sector more aligned with her values. She was excited to be hired as the number two leader in the HR department of a respected academic community, but one year later she chose to leave. She explained that she simply could not continue to work for a leader who did not seem able to connect with her, acknowledge her work, show any warmth or caring toward her as a person, or give her performance feedback of any kind, and who discouraged teamwork as well. In short, Martha’s new boss lacked emotional intelligence (EQ). Teressa Moore Griffin writes about leadership effectiveness in general, and EQ in particular. She has described the groundbreaking research by Daniel Goleman, who looked at 188 large corporations and found that “leaders with high EQ were 20 percent more productive and profitable than their counterparts.” In a later publication, Goleman identified four fundamental capabilities required for EQ:

  1. Self-Awareness—understanding your emotions and their impact on others
  2. Self-Management—the ability to keep disruptive emotions under control and demonstrate honesty, integrity, adaptability, and a readiness to take initiative
  3. Social Awareness—the ability to show empathy and take an active interest in the experiences and concerns of others
  4. Social Skill—the ability to develop others through feedback and guidance and to listen, form relationships, and promote cooperation and build teams
Clearly, Martha’s boss lacked at least three out of the four basic competencies for EQ, which resulted in her organization’s unnecessary loss of a highly skilled professional. Martha explained that she loved her work responsibilities and her staff and had great relationships with her constituents within and outside of the institution. But when she realized that she had a knot in her stomach all the time (a first in her career) and was starting to dread going to work on days when her boss would be in the office, she knew she could not continue feeling that way. She made one last attempt in a face-to-face meeting to explain to her boss that they were not connecting, and that she did not feel listened to or acknowledged. She got no meaningful response and resigned. I have written in a previous article about why women and men in leadership need to be more relational with female staff. When I asked Martha whether she thought her expectations of relationship and subsequent disappointment with this recent boss might have been higher because this boss is a woman, she thoughtfully explained that she has worked for many male HR leaders, and male bosses can be dumb about relationships, but they usually know it and will ask for help. They are more likely to ask a woman for help than to ask another man, but they will ask because they understand the importance of having motivated and productive employees and teams. They also tend to give performance feedback because they understand that developing people is part of leadership. Is your EQ where you need it to be for maximum effectiveness in all aspects of your life? Take this quiz to test your emotional intelligence. There is always room to grow to become a better leader, parent, family member, community leader—you get the picture!   Photo credit: Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]]>

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