LEADERSHIP / AUG. 31, 2014
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Building Blocks of Leadership: Is There Room for Emotion?

Emotions in leadership have become a hot topic as of late. According to John Wooden, emotions should be kept in check and self-control is paramount. While I have subscribed to that belief system for a long time now, things may be changing, and I may have to change with them. The evidence is pretty striking and shows that emotional intelligence is actually fairly important in leadership.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

In short, emotional intelligence, or EI, is the ability to monitor your own and other people’s emotions. The ability to discern between different emotions and label them appropriately. This then leads to you using this information to guide your thinking and behaviour.

As I started researching this particular idea of leadership I couldn’t get past the idea of this simply being empathy. After all, if you empathize with those you lead, you have a better understanding of how to lead those individuals. Empathy is not something that is natural to everyone though, it would seem, so learning to empathize, or in this case use EI, has shown huge increases in mental health, job performance and leadership skills.

There are three models of emotional intelligence called ability model, developed by Peter Salovey and John Mayer, trait model, developed by Konstantin Vasily Petrides, and mixed model which is a combination of the two.

The ability model focuses on individual’s ability to process emotional information and use that information in the social environment. The trait model on the other hand, looks at behavioural dispositions and self perceived abilities and is only measured through self report.

As expected, those with higher EI have greater mental health, job performance and leadership metrics. A number of studies have been done that show quantitative, though arguable, results, but criticisms have centered on whether EI is an actual intelligence or an incremental validity over IQ and the Big Five personality traits, which can be explored here.

The Results of a Recent Study

I’ll be honest, for myself, I am not sure this is a real thing that is anything more than an intelligent person that has a solid foundation in empathetic thought. With that said, I do plan to study more about EI and think on the subject a great deal. You may see me write something in the near future about how this is a complete breakthrough. Essentially, you can look at the study, and decide for yourself. The evidence is pretty compelling, but honestly, this particular article is just a push to start researching the ideas further.

FedEx recently conducted a study in which 72% of the programs participants experienced a large increase in decision making, 60% experienced an increase in quality of life and 58% experienced major improvements in influence or leadership.

For implementation the FedEx Global Leadership Institute used the Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Assessment to judge results. Basically, this is a suite of tools that measure EQ and equip people with a framework for putting emotional intelligence into action. You can read a full breakdown of everything that comes into play here.

There is plenty more that needs to be studied to see how effective this whole program is, but the FedEx GLI study has shown some pretty significant results as stated previously. This type of change to how things are handled in the business world. Implementation and buy-in are key and they may not be the right set of tools for everyone. In the same way that I view John Wooden’s teachings as gospel, others damn those teachings as outdated and no longer usable.

You will need to study the different styles out there and try them for yourself. We all have different leadership styles (that is what makes good leaders and great leaders different) and trying to lead through a paint-by-the-numbers style will not always work. It would seem, from the evidence shown here, that a combination of EI and other successful styles of leadership may lead to the best results possible, but I still encourage you to visit the links here to get the full breakdown of all of the information that is available on EI and how it may just change the way that leadership is handled. From what I can tell, it may just be a change for the better.

Image Via: Listverse

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