Without any doubt, Emotional Intelligence has been studied by many Leadership scientists, psychologists, and even behaviorists in an effort to help identify the set of traits and skills possessed by effective leaders. Needless to say that it has been the subject of numerous heated discussions and controversies! Various researches have shown that EI is a valid component and attribute of the transformational leadership. Some of the studies have even shown that those with high levels of emotional intelligence have greater career success, develop stronger personal relations, have far superior leadership skills and lead a healthier lifestyle than those with low emotional Intelligence, often referred to as EQ (as in Emotional Quotient, differentiating from IQ). Those who believe in the full potential of EI embrace its promising qualities and capacities to help create personal and organizational success, develop trusting and honest relationships, give rise to a fearless working environment, promote open communications that lead to high organizational performance in a global market specifically marked by conflicts born out of constant change. No wonder that many individuals and companies have jumped on the bandwagon of EI and found both success and profits.
Leading Organizations with Emotions
In these times of rapid global change, mergers, re-engineering, restructuring, technological advances quickly rendering skills and technology obsolete, any company that cares about its shareholders and a viable future will embrace most gimmicks to give it a competitive edge, a clear advantage over its competitors. The application of EI-related traits and capacities is known to make a huge difference in the bottom line of many businesses. Since Leadership is about interacting with others and getting things done, we can see how important it is for organizational leaders and employees to have what is commonly referred to as “good people skills.” Followers want to see transformational leadership. They want to see a leader who leads with passion. Being able to lead with emotions will have the potential of creating a collaborative environment with a far greater output. How can EI influence Leadership? Do emotions precede Cognition? What are the EI-related traits or skills most responsible for the emergence of Leadership? In other words, it is fair to examine the effect of EI on personal and/or occupational success and effective leadership. The aim of this paper is to explore not only the relationship between EI and effective leadership, but also, the possibilities of developing a successful career, great relationships in life and contributing to organizational success.
What are Emotion and EI?
A quick review of the organizational literature will reveal that it has been dominated by a cognitive orientation (Ilgen & Klein, 1989) with feelings being ignored or being seen as something that gets in the way of rationality and effective decision making (Albrow, 1992). In her paper, Jennifer set out to show how leadership theory and research have not adequately considered how leaders’ moods and emotions influence their effectiveness as leaders. She quickly mentions two preliminary studies that suggest that leaders’ feelings may play an important role in leadership. Furthermore, studies have shown that there had not been too much interest in the exploration of the effect of Emotional Intelligence on Leadership. The existing studies tend to provide lots of details about “what leaders are like, what they do, and how they make decisions, the effects of leaders’ feelings or their moods and emotions and, more generally, the role of emotions in the leadership process are often not explicitly considered in the leadership literature, with the notable exception of work on charisma (e.g. Conger & Kanungo, 1998; Lindholm, 1990).
In Latin, Emotion means, “the spirit that moves us.” According to some researchers, our emotions, as much as or more than our minds, contain our histories- every chapter and verse of every experience, deep understanding, and relationships in our lives. Others state that they make up who we are, and they enter our human system as a source of energy that radiates and resonates.
The Role of Feelings in Human Interaction
Fortunately, more and more leadership researchers are focusing on the interaction between moods and emotions. Let’s take a deeper look at the definition of these feelings. Moods are pervasive and generalized feeling states that are not tied to the events or circumstances which may have caused the mood in the first place (Morris, 1989). Moods are relatively low intensity feelings which do not interrupt ongoing activities (Forgas, 1992a.) On the other hand, emotions are high intensity feelings that are triggered by specific stimuli (either internal or external to the individual), demand attention, and interrupt cognitive processes and behaviors (Forgas, 1992a; Morris, 1989; Simon, 1982). Jon L. Pierce and Jon W. Newstrom said, in “Leaders and the Leadership Process, “Emotions tend to be more fleeting than moods because of t heir intensity. Emotions often feed into moods so that, once the intensity of an emotion subsides because the individual has cognitively or behaviorally dealt with its cause, the emotion lingers on in the form of a less intense feeling or mood.”
Feelings have been shown to influence the judgments that people make, material recalled from memory, attributions for success and failure, creativity and inductive and deductive reasoning . (Pierce et al, 2005).
When people are in positive moods, for example, their perceptions and evaluations are likely to be more favorable, they are more prone to remember positive information, they are self-assured, they are likely to take credit for successes and avoid blame for failures, and they are more helpful to others. Positive moods have been found to enhance flexibility on categorization tasks and facilitate creativity and inductive reasoning (Isen et al., 1985, 1987).
Several modern industries have asked their leaders to check their emotions at the door. By that, they undoubtedly place more emphasis on the analytical part of the brain of these leaders. Their mind becomes more valuable than their heart. For example, leaders in health care have been educated, selected, promoted, and retained based on their analytical and creativity skills. “Today’s health care leaders must also have emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is primal for passion. Emotional intelligence, which leads to passion, is crucial to the survivability of today’s health care organizations,” stated Llewellyn E. Piper, PhD, Onslow Memorial Hospital Jacksonville, NC. Piper notes that passion is an emotion that is as powerful as love (Goleman et al., 2002). Without passion in the followers, the passion of the leader will fail to be ineffective. Passion is applied to leadership to inspire followers. It makes sense that leadership itself is about entrusting others with the ability to carry out specific projects, motivating them to get things done. Through passion, leaders and followers become more motivated to accomplish the mission of serving others, including customers and suppliers. J. Collins proposed the following: “To go from good to great, organizational leadership must instill passion. This passion comes from emotional intelligence. As the logic goes, to have a great organization, the organization must have great people, and essential to greatness is leadership that inspires followers through passion.”
How can we better grasp the power of passion? We have to take a look at the role of the cognitive function.
Cognition is about how the brain functions in processing information from the environment. It is about how a person perceives, learns, remembers, and thinks. So passion is an emotion that is triggered by the way a person perceives the stimuli from the environment. The basic stimuli are related to the senses of vision, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Passion evolves from the way the person receives and interprets these stimuli. How the person remembers these experiences, and how the person thinks about these experiences (Goleman et al., and Sternberg R.).
Furthermore, we stumble upon the phenomenon of Nature/Nurture championed by two Greek philosophers. They may help us understand better how humans interact with the environmental stimuli. Aristotle and Plato, the student of Socrates discussed how a person receives and responds to these stimuli. Aristotle believed that behavior is determined by the environment. As for Plato, he believed that humans have inborn innate qualities that direct how they perceive, learn, and think. Plato believed that human behavior is determined by nature.
Another look at the concept of cognition allows us to grasp that “intelligence is the ability to process information, to learn from the experience of the information processed, and to adapt to the environment. Intelligence is a multifaceted construct that includes more than academic and practical abilities. It includes the ability to perform well in academics. It also includes spatial intelligence, musical intelligence, word fluency, verbal comprehension, sociability, and reasoning, to mention just a few (Anastai, 1997). Consequently, Sternberg, Anastai and Urbina concluded that a person may have one or more specific types of intelligence; one type may be more dominant than another.
How can we afford not to take a holistic approach to leadership?
Neurosurgeons and other scientists examine the functional areas of the brain and found out that the fontal lobe is responsible for logic, thinking, reasoning, and judgment. It takes care of concrete thinking, abstract thinking, and creativity. In that mindset, leaders have been selected and promoted based on their analytical and visionary abilities. Little or no thought has been given to the emotional part of the brain that drives passion. The limbic system is the force behind our passion or emotions (Carlson, 2002). It is believed that there exists a crucial emotional regulatory circuit that runs from the prefrontal region of the brain to the amygdale of the limbic system. While the amygdale is the single most important part of the brain for the expression of emotional responses, the orbitofrontal cortex, which is located at the base of the anterior frontal lobes, plays an important role in emotional behavior by affecting a variety of behaviors including emotional responses organized by the amygdala. The question to ask is why leaders should not use this portion of their brain (Carlson, 2002).
How can we appreciate the relevance and role played by emotions in predicting cognitive skills?
Studies conducted by other researchers focusing on the brain have determined that emotion precedes or at least accompanies cognition and thus, emotion and affective information provides a unique source of information that can improve cognition (Dickman & Stanford-Blair, 2002, Zajonc, 1998). It is true that scholars have long recognized the relevance of cognition to problem solving and leadership. Unfortunately, the relevance of emotion has been historically discounted (Salovey et al., 2000). At this point, it’s worth noting the key difference between cognitive skills and emotional intelligence. “Emotional intelligence involves the integration of emotion with thoughts, enabling one to understand what others are feeling, while cognitive skills involve integration, organization, and ordering of thoughts,” wrote Goleman in 2001. Even for the emergence of leadership, research has shown that the budding leaders must be able to take in and understand emotional information. This brings us to the notion of self-monitoring which is also an aspect of EI. Researchers such as Kenny and Zaccaro describe leadership in terms of self-monitoring which refers to the ability and willingness to read verbal and nonverbal social cues and alter one’s behavior accordingly (Snyder, 1979). High self-monitors (HSMs) are adept both at reading social cues and at regulating their self-presentation to fit a particular situation. Whereas low self-monitors (LSMs) lack either the motivation or ability to regulate their self-presentation (Dobbins G. H. et al., 1990).
What’s EI all about?
We’ll take a look at its definition by various researchers and its specific characteristics.
Emotional Intelligence is defined as one’s ability to accurately identify, appraise, and discriminate among emotions in oneself and others, understand emotions, assimilate emotions in thought, and to regulate both positive and negative emotions in self and others (Mayer, Caruso, & Salovey, 2000; Salovey & Mayer, 1990). A major component of EI is empathy which is defined as actively seeking to identify with another’s emotions so that one experiences oneself to be similar to or nearly identical with the other person (Sally, 2000). Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee argue that emotional intelligence is what is needed to lead. “Great leaders move us. They ignite our passion and inspire the best in us…Great leadership works through the emotions,” they state. This passion in leadership comes from the cognitive ability of emotional intelligence. Leadership scientists refer to this cognitive ability as the ACE factor (A for analytical ability, C for creativity ability, and E for emotional ability). Isn’t it high time that executive boards, CEOs and company recruiters take a holistic approach to leadership? Goleman et al. go a few steps further. They state that the role of emotions in the workplace is powerful. It can invoke anger and hostility, doom and gloom, or it can invoke passion with higher morale, motivation, and commitment.
In 1990, two psychologists, Peter Salovey and John Mayer, first coined the term emotional intelligence (EI), referring to EI as an ability to recognize the meaning of emotions and their relationships, and to reason and solve problems on the basis of them. These two researchers concluded that EI consisted of three mental processes: appraising and expressing emotions in the self and others, regulating emotion in self and others, and using emotions in adaptive ways. In 1991, they refined EI into four mental abilities: Perceiving/identifying emotions, integrating emotions into thought processes, understanding emotions, and managing emotions. It had to take Daniel Goleman to bring EI into the spotlight with his books entitled, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ and Working with Emotional Intelligence. While Goleman argues that EI can be learned and improves with age, Salovey and Mayer prefer to say that IE develops with age and that emotional knowledge can be enhanced and emotional skills can be learned.
Knowing that leadership is primarily a field of interaction between the leader, follower and the context, we can safely say that EI has an important role to play. We also know that more and more interpersonal skills have become more integral to effective leadership (Goleman, 1998). Where leaders were once seen to control, plan and inspect the overall running of an organization, in today’s more service-oriented industries, leadership roles are also to motivate and inspire others, to foster positive attitudes at work, and to create a sense of contribution and importance with and among employees (Hogan et al., 1994). Who would not want to have the freedom of choosing how to respond to any significant event? It must be the most powerful freedom for emotionally intelligent leaders and employees. In an age of drastic change brought on by the realities of the marketplace, being able to react appropriately can increase the trust level with the public. At the same time, consumers will feel confident to purchase from the company’s range of products and services. In a study conducted by Benjamin Palmer, Melissa Walls, Zena Burgess, and Con Stough, it has been shown that the ability to monitor and manage emotions may part of the underlying attributes that manifest the individual consideration component of effective transformational leadership. For example, sensing when a subordinate needs a more or less challenging task may depend on the ability to monitor emotions, i.e. monitoring when a subordinate is bored or frustrated with a given task. Sensing with a subordinate or colleague requires feedback may first involve monitoring and detecting the existence of emotions that suggest this need, but in this case, also managing their emotions or feelings. Another good example would be to monitor and detect feelings from subordinates such as not being appreciated for one’s work, and managing their emotions, perhaps by providing positive feedback so as to elevate feelings of not being appreciated
The companies whose leaders have embraced EI have reaped large profits. The individuals who use emotional intelligence in the workplace relate very well to their peers. They have a higher level of satisfaction and professional success. Companies such as 3M, Disney, Southwest Airlines find ways to give wings to their employees’ dreams. In 1950, Richard Carlton, CEO of 3M, said, “Our company has, indeed, stumbled onto some of its new products and services. But never forget that you can only stumble if you’re moving.” We have seen the impact of this kind of drive from 3M in innovations such as waterproof sandpaper and Post-it notes and more recently Thinsulate. Disney needs no presentation here. As for Southwest, the company has been profitable for more than 32 years. That’s unheard of in the airline industry. Since inception, Southwest has valued its Customers. “The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.”
In one of his books, precisely, in the chapter on emotional intelligence, Goleman presents the example a domineering airline pilot named Melburn McBroom. One day in 1978, his plane developed a problem with the landing gear as it approached the airport. McBroom turned the plane over to the copilot and began trying to fix the problem. As the plane circled the airport, the cockpit crew noticed that the fuel gauges were approaching empty. But they were so fearful of McBroom’s wrath that they said nothing. The plane crashed, killing 10 people. The FAA states that pilots’ mistakes cause many deaths. Many scientists have come to understand the basic concept behind emotional intelligence. Success and happiness depend on more than IQ. In fact, the lack of EI can be fatal. Citing a New England Journal of Medicine study on malpractice cases, Goleman said concluded that failures of emotional intelligence also have their price. “About 1 percent of all hospital patients have something happen that could be grounds for a malpractice suit, but only a tiny percentage of these patients sue. Doctors that patients don’t like get sued more; although their medical skills may be comparable to other doctors’, the patient feels, ‘He did not care about me. He didn’t listen. He didn’t let me ask questions.’ If you were a medical school, you’d want to prepare your students by cultivating qualities of empathy.” More than that sole aspect, Craig Lambert, writing for Harvard Magazine, borrowed Goleman’s definitions of EI. “It’s a blanket term that includes, “self-awareness, managing your emotions effectively, motivation, empathy, reading other people’s feelings accurately, social skills like teamwork, persuasion, leadership, and managing relationship.”
In 1998, writing for Educational Leadership, Cary Cherniss said, “IQ accounts for only 20 percent of the factors that determine success in life. Unlike IQ, emotional intelligence is a cluster of personal and social competencies. These include self-awareness and self-control, motivation and persistence, empathy, and the ability to form mutually satisfying relationships.”
EI Summary: The Impact on Leadership
All in all, this paper managed to explore the relationship between emotional intelligence and effective leadership. What is clear is that, to the extent that EI measures the ability to monitor and manage emotions within oneself and others, it may an underlying competency of transformational leadership. At least, we found out that EI plays an important role in leadership defined as a field of interaction between the leaders and the followers. Companies and individuals that embrace the characteristics of EI find themselves on the path to success. Obviously, we should note that any future research in this area can focus on the relationship between EI and leadership on a deeper level. Human Resources department, selection boards and recruiting agencies will have vested interests in researchers examining the relationship between EI and transformational leadership. Looking at emergent leaders and leaders from various industries and different levels of leadership will also add more depth. As an analytical competency, IQ may be useful but it only represents 20 percent of the brain functions whereas EQ, representing a cluster of abilities, may be the most envied. After all, you want to be a leader known for using both mind and heart. Why let your amygdale rust? It’s time that today’s leaders start focusing on a holistic approach to leadership. The time to connect emotions to the brain may have finally arrived.
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