Sitting in the corner office in her leather chair, Barbara Smith exhales as she gazes out the window. Reflecting on her life, she is amazed by the journey. Once a line worker, at age 58 Barbara is the Senior VP of Manufacturing.
As a girl, Barbara had a curious mind. She always invented her own toys, yet as the youngest of five children, she was the “runt of the litter” and was picked on frequently. To avoid being bullied, she had to find ways to befriend people. It took a lot of energy to break free from the caste that made her who she was the introverted shy-gal.
At the same time, she learned a lot from these experiences, which eventually earned her respect. As she moved through her college years, Barbara learned more about dealing with people. She formed lasting friendships. Barbara knew from experience that cultivating these relationships was a wise choice.
Sure enough, a college friend helped Barbara land her first full-time job, an entry-level position at a Detroit car manufacturer. The job fit with Barbara’s introverted personality. However, Barbara’s inclination to solitude was not rewarded at work.
More and more, her professional success and happiness was based on her ability to inspire and motivate others. Today, Barbara is able to reach out to people. She knows that people like to be around people who like them, or at least understand them, and she is not one to do this naturally.
Indeed, Barbara has spent much of her life finding the motivation to connect with other people. The world always found a way to reinforce this behavior. In her own words, “I couldn’t really understand other people until I understood myself. When I was younger I simply catered to others, but now I’ve learned how to really connect with them.”
Barbara had to take the time to get intimately familiar with her own tendencies, strengths, and shortcomings. This required many years of self-reflection. Barbara had to discover new things about her and her leadership style before she could take her game to the next level. To learn about herself, and discover new ways to excel in connecting with people, Barbara directed much of her focus to her emotional intelligence (EI).
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is your ability to recognize and understand emotions, and your skill at using this awareness to manage yourself and relationships with others. EI is comprised of two main skills,
- Personal competence is the ability to maintain self-awareness and manage your behavior and tendencies.
- Social competence is the ability to understand the behavior and motives of other people and manage relationships.
EI is dynamic and it is easy for definitions to get unnecessarily complicated. There is one nutshell description people prefer to keep things simple, “Emotional intelligence describes the side of life that typical smarts cannot.” EI explains why two people of the same intelligence can attain vastly different levels of success in life. EI is the intangible “something” in each of us that incites how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results.
Emotional intelligence taps into a fundamental element of human behavior that is unique from your intellect. There is no connection between IQ and EI; you simply cannot predict emotional intelligence based on how smart someone is. This is great news because regular intelligence cannot change. Your IQ, short of a traumatic event like a brain injury, is fixed from birth. You do not get smarter by learning new facts of information. EI, on the other hand, is a flexible skill that is readily learned. While it is true that some people are naturally more emotionally intelligent than others are, a high EI can be made even if you are not born with it.
Leaders with Low Emotional Intelligence
The trend seen when emotional intelligence is compared to job title is puzzling and dramatic. Scores climb with title from the bottom of the corporate ladder upwards toward middle management. Middle managers stand out with the highest emotional intelligence scores. However, the surprise comes as you continue looking up beyond middle management. There is a steep downward trend in emotional intelligence scores for individuals holding director titles and above. In addition, CEOs, on average, have the lowest emotional intelligence scores in the workforce.
We often think that the higher your job title, the less “real work” you do, and so your main function is to “get work done through other people.” However, it appears that too many people are promoted for what they know or how long they have worked, rather than for their skill in managing people. Once they reach the top, they spend less time interacting with staff.
Among executives, those with the highest EI scores are the best performers. The same holds true for every job title: those with the highest EI scores within any position outperform their peers. Emotional intelligence has more influence on job performance than intellect or experience.
- “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ” by Daniel Goleman
- “Working with Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman
- “Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships” by Daniel Goleman
- “Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman