In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey (2013) began with the principle of inside-out. This principle presents an essential and most important step in the transformation process of becoming a successful leader. If we want improvement or even change, instead of expecting people, things, and events to change for us, we must begin by looking within ourselves and identify our part or role to the change that we want to occur. As Mahatmi Gandhi stated, “be the change you want to see in the world”. By applying the principles of systems thinking, we will understand and realize the interdependence of people, events, and things. It will be dire if leaders will continue using the same leadership approach even if it’s no longer working or only provide short-term results. Great long-term results, with continuity in mind, should be the impetus of any leadership goal. To make this possible, leaders must be open to changing old ways and leaving bad habits behind. This brings us to the skills necessary to become a successful leader.
Mainstream approach to leadership sees leaders and managers as temperamental, egocentric, and dictatorial. Intelligent, political, charismatic, and high-profiled — these are just some of the qualities that we consider of a successful leader. Soft skills are considered more of a weakness than strength. Goleman (1998) and Hill et al. (2014) suggest otherwise. Soft skills, term commonly associated with emotional quotient or EQ, include personal attributes and characteristics that make a person socially adept -- interpersonally and intrapersonally. According to Goleman (2013), people with high levels of emotional intelligence or soft skills are capable of working well on a team; communicating clearly and effectively; adapting well to change; having smooth interactions with a wide variety of people; and thinking clearly and solving problems under pressure (p.292). In this paper, the relationship between emotional intelligence and effective leadership will be explored.
Emotional Intelligence and Effective Leadership
It has been thought that I.Q., technical skills, and knowledge are the primary contributors to successful leadership and management. During Goleman’s (2008) research of 188 large and global companies, it turns out that highly effective and successful leaders possess exceptionally high levels of emotional intelligence. According to Goleman (2008), emotional intelligence includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills — characteristics that most business people would not consider as assets but rather as weaknesses.
Why is emotional intelligence important? First of all, successful leadership requires successful relationships. To be able to build meaningful and purposeful business and/or organizational relationships, a leader must be able to possess and apply great social skills. Second, a leader that possesses self-awareness recognizes his/her own strengths, weaknesses, motivations, and needs. Such leader is realistic with his/her expectations of his/herself and others as well as honest about his/her failures. Third, leaders who are great at self-management or self-regulation do not comply to impulsive urges. They are also driven and motivated by achieving better results and creative challenges rather than external factors such as money or fame. Lastly, highly effective leaders possess empathy — one of the qualities that a lot of business people do not expect from a successful leader. Goleman (2008) pointed out the importance of empathy in today’s business and organizational structures due to projects that mostly utilize teams, diverse group, and to keep talented and skilled employees in the company.
When it comes to working with a diverse group of people, Hill et al. (2014) presented the importance of having leaders capable of leading and managing teams of diverse background and skills. Based on their findings, successful and innovative companies have great and talented leaders who are capable of working effectively with teams and guide individuals to work together despite any differences in interests, skills, talents, etc. They used these differences as an opportunity to build a creative hub. Skilled leaders working on innovative projects usually work with a diverse set of people with a plethora of talents and skills. These group of creatives and talents have to work together, collaborate, for innovation to emerge. Having a group of talented, skilled, creative, and highly energetic individuals working together can stir debates and arguments as new ideas surface. Good and great leaders can be distinguished from each other based on how they manage these situations. Great and skilled leaders will create a positive environment where debates and arguments are treated as opportunities to come up with the best solutions and right products and services. They do not present ideas to compete with and defeat each other. Debates and arguments are means to come up with the best solutions not by choosing between ideas but by combining all ideas. Also, skilled leaders give their team members the autonomy and room to think, create, and come up with ideas and solutions. Instead of turning down ideas, directing and giving specific instructions, skilled leaders allow their team members to think and brainstorm.
Another important skill that I learned from the stories and experiences of companies, leaders, managers, and executives is their ability to recognize the strengths of their staff, team members, and employees. When a leader, manager, or supervisor is not attuned to what’s around him, he may fail to discover the opportunities that surround him — opportunities brought by the people around him. All the talents and skills, when utilized appropriately, can equal to and result in innovation. Kelley’s (2005) Ten Faces of Innovation provides a good list of the types of people and skills that leaders can use as a guide in determining the best role for each of their staff, team members, and employees. When a leader knows and recognizes the strengths, talents, and skills of his/her people, he/she can allocate each person’s skills to an appropriate part or role. This also allows people to have confidence in what they do because they understand how their skills and talents are being used to solve a problem or to accomplish a goal.
Level 5 Leaders, as described by Collins (2011), are a study in duality: modest and willful, humble and fearless (p.375). These types of leaders are less concerned about their own riches and fame. Instead, they wanted to see their company, organization, and people to become more successful in the years to come. It does not matter if they get recognized or if the success gets traced back to their efforts. As Harry S. Truman stated, “you can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not mind who gets the credit”.
Social Intelligence and Innovative Leadership
Goleman and Boyatwzis (2008) provided a brief yet factual explanation on leadership and social intelligence based on factors such as mirror neurons; intuition and spindle cells; gender differences; and stress. According to the analysis of one of their colleagues, Claudio Fernandez - Araoz, executives who were selected and hired based on their intellect, drive, and discipline were later let go by companies because of their lack of social skills. If people are not born or trained to have social skills, is there a way to develop them? Goleman and Boyatwzis (2008) shared a story about a highly competent marketing executive hired by a huge company. However, her lack of social skills and unempathic approach eventually began to threaten her job after the negative performance feedback that she has received from her staff, other executives, and higher-ups. She was placed under a coaching session and found a mentor at her company to guide her and help her improve her social skills. The marketing executive gradually developed and enhanced her social skills. This change had a huge impact, a positive one, not just on the marketing executive's performance feedback but also on everyone that she works with.
During coaching and mentoring, the mirror neurons of those who are being trained, coached or mentored are activated. Also, how leaders and managers respond and handle challenges and stress can affect their staff, team members, and employees' performances and attitudes. Such phenomenon can also be attributed to mirror neurons. This is why it is important for leaders to have a high degree of emotional intelligence — self-awareness and self-regulation — because in times of stress and conflict, how leaders respond to such situations can be transferred to their subordinates. An unhappy leader can create a negative environment that affects employees.
When it comes to gender differences in terms of social intelligence, studies found that there are no significant difference between men and women. Finally, Goleman and Boyatwzis (2008) listed seven qualities of top performing leaders, including questions that they use to assess the level of socially intelligent leaders, such as empathy, attunement, organizational awareness, influence, developing others, inspiration, teamwork.
Successful leadership all boils down to effective social skills and the ability of the person to change and improve. Not everyone are born socially and emotionally intelligent, but we are all capable of developing and enhancing our social skills and emotional intelligence. Finally, Goleman and Boyatwzis (2008) suggest that if leaders desire support and cooperation from people, they must influence positive feelings and create a positive environment. This is also true when it comes to team effort. More than the skills of all team members combined in assessing the productivity of a team, the emotional and interpersonal dynamics of the team is crucial to the success of the group. The role of the leader helps make positive and harmonious relationships in a team to occur and persist.
Leadership and Human Performance Psychology
One of the major points I’ve learned about effective leadership is that it doesn’t happen overnight and that a great leader is not born but made. So if a person is not born a leader, then what makes a person become one?
“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born – that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.” – Warren G. Bennis
In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey (2013) began with the principle of inside-out. This principle presents an essential step in the transformation process of becoming a successful leader. If we want improvement or change, instead of expecting people, things, and events to change for us, we must begin by looking within ourselves and identify our part or role to the change that we want to occur. As Mahatmi Gandhi stated, “be the change you want to see in the world”. By applying the principles of systems thinking, we will understand and realize the interdependence of people, events, and things. It will be dire if leaders will continue using the same leadership approach even if it’s no longer working or only provides short-term results. Great long-term results, with continuity in mind, should be the driving force of any leadership goals. To make this possible, leaders must be open to changing old ways and leaving bad habits behind. This brings us to the skills necessary to become a successful leader.
Innovation is usually hard too achieve. It’s not because it is almost impossible to do but most of the time, it is our self that’s keeps us from innovating — the innovator’s paradox. We want to make some changes or improve a system but we are stuck with the same resources or methods. There are factors involved that would significantly affect the introduction of a new product or system and these effects can be unpredictable. Innovation, similar to change, happens in the most unlikely and uncomfortable situations. Applying the concepts of human performance to innovation, improving one’s performance may mean longer periods of work or training and may also involve sacrificing certain things. For example, if I want to improve my run I would have to set goals, train longer hours, change my diet, etc. While in the process of all the changes that I have to go through to help me improve my run, I cannot be always sure that I will get the results that I set. I may get the same, less, or more results out of my goal. However, what is more important is the long-term results of training or the process of training itself to improve my run.
The field of Human Performance Psychology can be applied in many fields such as education, business, and sports. Business leaders, mentors, coaches, and teachers can take advantage of developing the strength of their emotional intelligence in leading, motivating, and mentoring individuals and groups. Emotional Intelligence, as determined by Goleman, is divided into four generic domains: self-awareness (emotional self-awareness); social awareness (empathy, organizational awareness); self-management (emotional self-control, adaptability, achievement, positive outlook); and relationship management (inspiring leadership, influence, conflict management, teamwork and collaboration). Business environment is changing and it seems like for the better. When I say business environment, I also meant how most systems work through successful leadership and innovation. It can be in schools, non-profit organizations, associations, etc. Shoshone Zuboff, a psychologist at Harvard Business School pointed out that, “Corporations have gone through radical revolution within this century, and with this has come a corresponding transformation of the emotional landscape. There was a long period of managerial domination of the corporate hierarchy when the manipulative, jungle-fighter boss was rewarded. But that rigid hierarchy started breaking down in the 1980’s under the twin pressures of globalization and information technology. The jungle fighter symbolizes where the corporation has been; the virtuoso in interpersonal skills is the corporate future” (Goleman, 2011, p. 188-189). I always say that “we get what we give”. This is fitting when it comes how I wanted to lead and become a leader as I have learned numerous times through experience and education that my emotions, aside from my skills, influence the people I’m working with. If I am emotionally unstable, easily agitated, or stressed, and I express these emotions around others; it is more than likely that I will influence the same affect to said people. This is where emotional intelligence, as well as social intelligence comes in. Self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship management skills are important tools when handling challenging situations. Why? Being a leader does not mean that we always have good days or that we can always dodge every stressful situation that comes our way. Life happens and we have our ups and downs. What helps an effective leader go through challenging and tough situations are not just their technical skills, but most importantly their emotional skills. How do we handle stress, frustration, even failure?
Leaders are assigned to certain tasks and responsibilities such as motivating others to perform at their best, create a positive environment, and build dynamic teams. Emotional intelligence plays a major role in equipping leaders to be successful and effective in performing said responsibilities. One of the primary goals of a leader or mentor is to ensure that people are performing at their best and progressing. Goleman posited that, “leadership is not domination, but the arts of persuading people to work toward a common goal”(2011, p. 189). It is not about one’s position, title or authority, it is about how we relate to the people we are leading and/or mentoring and how we want to empower them. Mental coaching, in connection to human performance psychology, is one of the roles that most leaders play. How can we motivate and inspire people to perform efficiently, better or at their best ? How well do we understand others (personality) and what influences their level of performance (motivation, environment, amount of training, social support, etc.)? Is there a negative way of motivating someone? One of the key factors when it comes to motivation is timing. When giving criticism and praise, timing is important. It is supposed to be simple — don't be frugal with praise and do not delay feedback. When giving praise and feedback, it is very important that they are given as soon as the action or behavior is observed. This is very similar to teaching toddlers in preschool or training an athlete. Harry Levinson, a psychoanalyst turned corporate consultant, lists four things to consider when providing criticism and praise: (1) be specific; (2) offer a solution; (3) be present and provide praise or criticism face-to-face and in private; (4) be sensitive and be attuned to the impact of what you have to say and how you are going to say it on the person at the receiving end (Goleman, 2011, p. 292-293). Criticisms and praises are part of human performance. These are feedback that can make or break future performances. When these feedback come from someone who is in a leadership role, its effect is very significant. For innovation and improvement to occur, leaders must be capable of influencing them through motivating team members, creating an environment conducive to and welcoming of creativity, and most importantly building harmonious relationships.
Leadership skills can be developed at any point in a person’s life, both in career and personal. This similar attitude and optimism is something that any of us can share to others. If a leader believes that he is capable of continuously improving his skills and talents regardless of his current position in his personal and professional life, then he would have the same gusto to help others believe in their capacity to improve and perform at their best. Effective and successful leaders do not only strive to and continuously develop their technical knowledge and skills; they also improve their interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. Finally, the reward and recognition that they may get from being an outstanding leader is secondary to them. What is more important to a leader is the impact of his efforts to the continuity of a company or organization as well as its people. This is regardless if they get recognized for it or not. As Tom Peters states, “Leaders do not create more followers, they create more leaders”. To be able to do this, a leader must have the skills to motivate and inspire people to become successful. Simply put, emotional intelligence and social skills are as important as, if not more than, one’s trade knowledge and technical skills.
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