Reasons Behind the Emotional Intelligence Hype

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Introduction

Currently the discussion around emotional intelligence is buzzing and raging. The reasons behind this may have to do with its noticeable lack in predominant cultural themes. The emergence of technology has had a noticeably distancing psychological effect, which may be contributing to the rise of behavioral problems in the youth. An increasingly polarized representation of the nation through media has led to educators emphasizing the need for the balanced and intuitive approach of emotional intelligence as a softening tool for cold logic. However, emotional intelligence is most needed for those in a leadership position, as it gives them the insight to effectively utilize their teams. 

Emotional What?

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) first came to the focus of the business world in 1995 when Daniel Goleman wrote Emotional Intelligence. In this work Goleman emphasizes, “Emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader” (Buffard). Emotional Intelligence has been all abuzz lately because the importance of leaders has recently come to light, and EQ is essential in the effective leader. While anyone would benefit from it, some (notably geniuses) may be completely lacking EI and still very valuable in their role. However, if that is the case it is likely their role is not one of leadership. 

For leaders it has been found that emotional intelligence is more valuable than literal intelligence. EQ can be defined as, 

1. Emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others;

2. The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problems solving;

3. The ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions, and the ability to cheer up or calm down another person. (Psychology Today)

The results of having emotional intelligence for leaders is much different from those who are being lead. For leaders EQ creates:

Decreased occupational stress

Improved decision making

Increased team performance

Increased leadership ability 

Increased personal well-being

Reduced staff turnover (Buffard)

Emotional intelligence is the strength which enables leaders to remain the calm in the storm, providing an emotional life-raft for his colleagues. Recent research into this key skill by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) focused on EI’s effect for its “more than 20,000 individuals and 2,000 organizations, including more than 80 of the Fortune 100 companies. It says the three main reasons for failure are difficulty in handling change, inability to work well in a team, and poor interpersonal relations” (Deutschendorf). Those with emotional intelligence appear to be in tune with their intuition, and have the ability to understand what tone, approach, and information at what time will be the most effective in most situations. 

This is people skills in action, and even in the burgeoning information age, research shows that people skills are still more profitable than technical proficiency. This fact was reinforced as the “Carnegie Institute of Technology carried out research that showed that 85% of our financial success was due to skills in ‘human engineering’, personality, and ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead. They found that only 15% was due to technical ability” (Deutschendorf). These findings make sense because it is humans which instill value to information, and this value directly relates to the enjoyment of the emotional experience of interacting with it. 

The Fine Line

Any skill has a balance point where if it tips it can become its own worst enemy, and as the value of emotional intelligence is being buzzed about now there are those who are waving the warning flag. The same intuitive sense which enables effective business leaders also has enabled manipulative political leaders. Historian Roger Moorhouse comments on the dark side of strong emotional intelligence;

Recognizing the power of emotions, another one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century spent years studying the emotional effects of his body language. Practicing his hand gestures and analyzing images of his movements allowed him to become ‘an absolutely spellbinding public speaker…it was something he worked very hard on.’ His name was Adolf Hitler. (Grant)

Indeed this is a fine warning, but it is nearly a warning more about the amazing levels of impressionability of the crowd than the dangers of charisma. This has been termed the “awestruck effect” as those with strong EQ can entrance those without it. Those who warn that EI should be taught in an ethical framework emphasize,

New evidence shows that when people hone their emotional skills, they become better at manipulating others. When you’re good at controlling your own emotions, you can disguise your true feelings. When you know what others are feeling, you can tug at their heartstrings and motivate them to act against their own best interests…New evidence suggests that when people have self-serving motives, emotional intelligence becomes a weapon for manipulating others. (Grant)

A finely balanced cultivation of emotional intelligence has the capacity to create a more balanced culture. This has been presented as, “If we can teach our children to manage emotions, the argument goes, we’ll have less bullying and more cooperation. If we can cultivate emotional intelligence among leaders and doctors, we’ll have more caring workplaces and more compassionate healthcare” (Grant). This is logical, and has resulted in EQ being taught and cultivated around the world. 

Fruits of Balance

The fruits of a balanced relationship with emotional intelligence are many. The ethical framework in which to cultivate this balance is through self-awareness making the constant choice not to manipulate others but to inspire. This is a hard balance to strike, especially for leaders whose job is on the line, but it is respecting the free will of others, and always worth it. The best way to cultivate emotional intelligence is to get to know yourself well, for the foundation of EQ is understanding your own emotions. 

Little discussed in this process is the role of the body in developing balanced emotional intelligence. Emotions and intuition are largely of the body, and those who excel at EQ likely have a more synergistically unified mind/body being. It is when the mind is divested from the body that the misbalancing and manipulative effects of EQ can flourish the most. Thus, yoga and meditation are a good way to increase EQ as it helps strengthen the mind/body bond. This bond can be broken by many aspects of contemporary culture, notably the near total separation from nature which is the extended body of humanity.

When EQ is strong all aspects of a person’s life, both professionally and personally will likely go smoother. EQ enables people to read between the lines, see what people may be too afraid to say, but what meaning their actions are communicating. This enables an EQ individual to traverse the many shifting boundaries of trust and relationships with success. For those in it is key. Here are ten core reasons leaders must cultivate emotional intelligence:

1. Compassion

2. Effective Communication

3. Self-Awareness

4. Authenticity

5. Respect

6. Leading with Heart

7. Sense of Humor

8. Confidence

9. Intuition

10. Creativity (Crossley)

This is the most effective matrix for leaders. When a leader is compassionate their staff feels they can come to them with concerns which if left unexpressed may derail progress. Communication enables everyone to be on the same page, while self-awareness keeps the leader in the balance which enables respect. Authenticity which comes from EQ is a special brand of inspiration and approachability which is closely related to leading with heart. These two traits empower the team and bring energy to work with creatively. A sense of humor lets the team know that pride is absent, and that the job can be fun (Hillman). 

Confidence enables the team to trust that in good times and bad their leader will support them, while intuition enables these conflicts to be side stepped with sensitivity (Zeidner, Matthews, and Roberts 24). The result of this mix is that “People would rather do business with a person they like and trust rather than someone they don’t, even if that that person is offering a better product at a lower price” (Deutschendorf). This is the valuation system which people bring to the economy and data management. People innately value quality over quantity, and one hopes that this move to emphasize emotional intelligence is a rebalancing act of the overflow of quantity in consumer culture.

Conclusion

Emotional intelligence is the skill of understanding your own emotions, and being able to effectively relate with the emotions of others. Key trait for leaders, and a skill to be cultivated for the benefits of all, EQ is fast becoming the new standard for hire-ability. However, balance of this skill with respect for free will is key for those with strong EQ not to manipulate those susceptible to suggestion. 

Works Cited

Buffard, Jonathan. “Why Emotional Intelligence is the Most Important Quality of Good Leadership.” LinkedIn, 2 Mar. 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-emotional-intelligence-most-important-quality-good-buffard

Crossley, Tracy. “10 Reasons Why Emotional Intelligence Is Critical for Leaders.” The Huffington Post, 2 May 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tracy-crossley/10-reasons-why-emotional-_b_6770864.html

Deutschendorf, Harvey. “Why Emotionally Intelligent People Are More Successful.” Fast Company, 22 Jun. 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.fastcompany.com/3047455/hit-the-ground-running/why-emotionally-intelligent-people-are-more-successful

Grant, Adam. “The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence.” The Atlantic, 2 Jan. 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/01/the-dark-side-of-emotional-intelligence/282720/

Hillman, Chris. “5 Reasons Why Your Emotional Intelligence Matters More Than Your IQ.” Inspiyr, 2016. Retrieved from: http://inspiyr.com/improve-emotional-intelligence/

Psychology Today. “Emotional Intelligence.” Psychologytoday.com, 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/emotional-intelligence

Zeidner, Moshe, Gerald Matthews, and Richard D. Roberts. What we Know About Emotional Intelligence. London: MIT Press, 2009. Retrieved from: https://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/titles/content/9780262012607_sch_0001.pdf