Several years ago, when we were newlyweds, my husband was diagnosed with the flu. Unfortunately, he was misdiagnosed and eight days later at the local emergency room, we learned that his appendix was about to burst!
Fortunately, the surgeon operated before the worst could happen and my husband recovered completely. It has served as a lasting lesson to me, however, that a thoughtful and correct diagnosis at the earliest stage can identify an antidote that will prevent much trouble, pain and possible heartache.
This is incredibly relevant for leaders today. Emotional Intelligence (EI) competencies comprise a skill set they must not only have at moderate to high levels but keep in balance, as well. EI helps leaders perceive and solve for the needs of each person and group they influence. A thoughtful and prompt diagnosis, anchored in EI skills like self-awareness, emotional expression, empathy, reality testing and flexibility, can help identify and apply effective antidotes early on to ameliorate workplace ailments we are facing today.
It isn’t overstating the obvious to establish that, just like the muscles in our bodies, EI skills must be used and developed, then used and developed some more. This is true for all leaders no matter their level in the organization or years of experience. Just as athletes must consistently work out and train to sharpen their fitness, so leaders must consistently work to use and hone EI muscles to sharpen their effectiveness.
With that in mind, allow me to share five reasons why leaders need Emotional Intelligence training:
- Emotionally intelligent leaders increase retention numbers and directly influence engagement scores. McKinsey recently noted, “Numerous studies show that in a business-as-usual environment, compassionate leaders perform better and foster more loyalty and engagement by their teams. However, compassion becomes especially critical during a crisis.”1 Connecting authentically as a fellow human with what the team is experiencing is what really sets the stage for strong business recovery and growth.
- Emotionally intelligent leaders raise performance levels. Researchers Stein and Book report, “… studies have shown that [IQ] can serve to predict between 1 and 20% (the average is 6%) of success in a given job. EQ [or EI], on the other hand, has been found to be directly responsible for between 27 and 45 percent of job success …”2 And that percentage is even higher for those in leadership positions! High performers combine intellectual ability with high and balanced elements of Emotional Intelligence.
- Emotionally intelligent leaders raise revenue margins. In the classic HBR article “What Makes a Leader?” McClelland’s findings in a 1996 study showed that “when senior managers had a critical mass of Emotional Intelligence capabilities, their divisions outperformed yearly earning goals by 20%. Meanwhile, division leaders without crucial mass underperformed by almost the same amount.”3 This reality has been repeated in multiple industries in recent years. Who wouldn’t want to see a 20% increase over established revenue targets?! Emotional Intelligence is the key.
- Emotionally intelligent leaders are the most desirable to be retained and set in succession tracks. Daniel Goleman said of his original research, “When I compared star performers with average ones in senior leadership positions, nearly 90% of the difference in their profiles was attributable to Emotional Intelligence factors rather than cognitive abilities.”3 As leaders emerge from 2020 and begin to redesign their business plans, Gen X and millennial leaders are reworking their understanding, capabilities and skills to meet “the new normal.” Current baby boomer and Gen X leaders are searching for high performers who have come through this year with teams not only intact and productive, but deeply connected to each other and the business. These are the “star performers” who will step into senior-tier positions in the post-pandemic world. It must be noted that Generation Z is wide-eyed and watchful, soaking in and being formed by these leadership lessons. Strength in EI skills is no longer a nice-to-have, but the starting point for leader positioning.
- Finally, the key to organizational change in these shifting times is empathy4, arguably one of the most influential of the EI competencies. Harvard research confirms, “… a leader’s ability to enable a compassionate response throughout a company directly affects the organization’s ability to maintain high performance in difficult times. It fosters a company’s capacity to heal, to learn, to adapt and to excel.”5 As CLS’ own renowned thought leader Sam Shriver recently said, “If a leader lacks empathy, it increases the difficulty associated with effectively participating with employees that have temporarily lost either motivation or commitment to perform. The absence of empathy in these discussions can (and often does) escalate the challenge at hand.”
There is no longer any question: Leaders must have strength and balance in Emotional Intelligence for maximum effectiveness, and this skill set helps them to diagnose and deliver an antidote that can prevent much trouble, pain and possible heartache. Yes even—or especially—in the workplace.
We, at The Center for Leadership Studies, trust that by crystalizing the most important reasons here, supported by a broad sampling of industry experts and research, you have the foundation of a business case that will win both support and budget from decision makers to equip leaders with Emotional Intelligence training and skills to navigate and bring stability to this time of global turbulence and change.
1Nielsen NC, D’Auria G, Zolley S. Tuning in, turning outward: Cultivating compassionate leadership in a crisis. McKinsey & Company. May 2020.
2Stein S, Book H. The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success. 3rd ed. Jossey-Bass; 2011:17.
3Goleman D. What makes a leader? Harvard Business Review. Jan 2004.
4Sanchez P. The secret of organizational change is empathy. Harvard Business Review. Dec 2018.
5Dutton JE, Frost PJ, Worline MC, Lilius JM, Kanov JM. Leading in times of trauma. Harvard Business Review. Jan 2002.