emotional intelligenceAsked to define the ideal leader, many would emphasise traits such as intelligence, toughness, determination, and vision. Often left off the list are softer, more personal qualities--but recent studies indicate that they are also essential. Although a certain degree of analytical and technical skill is a minimum requirement for success, what is called "emotional intelligence" may be the key attribute that distinguishes outstanding performers from those who are merely adequate. For example, in a 1996 study of a global food and beverage company, where senior managers had a certain critical mass of emotional intelligence, their divisions outperformed yearly earnings goals by 20%. Division leaders without that critical mass underperformed by almost the same amount.

Many teams experience occasions when they get "in the groove." But how can they sustain it? As teams increasingly become the primary units of productivity in organisations, this question becomes more urgent. Certainly, team members' intelligence, vision, and technical skills are important. But these qualities shine only when teams hone their emotional intelligence (EI) - that potent combination of self-management and social skills--and practice essential discipline based on mutual accountability.

One intriguing aspect of emotional intelligence - and one that distinguishes it from IQ - is that we can boost it. How? First by learning the basic competencies of EI. Then by building group-behaviour norms that encourage the expression of these competencies at the team level. When combined with mutual accountability, EI can transform a team.

This article gets your teams on the road to emotional intelligence and unusual effectiveness. "What Makes a Leader" outlines David Goleman's fundamentals of emotional intelligence, while "Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups" shows you how to establish and maintain group EI norms. "The Discipline of Teams" describes the building blocks of mutual accountability.

"What Makes a Leader?"

by Daniel Goleman

There are five components to emotional intelligence:

  1. self-awareness,
  2. self-regulation,
  3. motivation,
  4. empathy, and
  5. social skill.

All five traits sound desirable to just about everyone. But organisations too often implicitly discourage their people from developing them.

To boost your emotional intelligence, David emphasises extensive practice, feedback from colleagues, and personal enthusiasm for making the change. He contrasts this with traditional training programs that target the rational part of the brain.

Self-management skills

1. Self-awareness.

Emotional intelligence begins with this trait. People with a high degree of self-awareness know their weaknesses and aren't afraid to talk about them. Someone who understands that he works poorly under tight deadlines, for example, will work hard to plan his time carefully, and will let his colleagues know why. Many executives looking for potential leaders mistake such candor for "wimpiness."

2. Self-regulation.

This attribute flows from self-awareness, but runs in a different direction. People with this trait are able to control their impulses or even channel them for good purposes.

3. Motivation.

A passion for achievement for its own sake - not simply the ability to respond to whatever incentives a company offers - is the kind of motivation that is essential for leadership.

The ability to relate to others

4. Empathy.

In addition to self-management skills, emotional intelligence requires a facility for dealing with others. And that starts with empathy - taking into account the feelings of others when making decisions - as opposed to taking on everyone's troubles.

Consider two division chiefs at a company forced to make layoffs. One manager gave a hard-hitting speech emphasising the number of people who would be fired. The other manager, while not hiding the bad news, took into account his people's anxieties. He promised to keep them informed and to treat everyone fairly. Many executives would have refrained from such a show of consideration, lest they appear to lack toughness. But the tough manager demoralised his talented people - most of whom ended up leaving his division voluntarily.

5. Social skill.

All the preceding traits culminate in this fifth one: the ability to build rapport with others, to get them to cooperate, to move them in a direction you desire. Managers who simply try to be sociable--while lacking the other components of emotional intelligence--are likely to fail. Social skill, by contrast, is friendliness with a purpose.

Can you boost your emotional intelligence? Absolutely--but not with traditional training programs that target the rational part of the brain. Extended practice, feedback from colleagues, and your own enthusiasm for making the change are essential to becoming an effective leader.

"Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups"

by Vanessa Urch Druskat and Steven B. Wolff

Druskat and Wolff take EI up to the team level, outlining the norms needed for groups to strengthen their emotional intelligence. As the authors explain, successful groups need to be aware of and to regulate the emotions of

  1. individual members,
  2. the whole group, and
  3. other key groups with whom the team interacts.

Norms - which leaders, trainers, or organisational culture introduce - include letting the group express its emotions, handling confrontation constructively, and inviting "reality checks" from customers or suppliers.

"The Discipline of Teams"

by Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith

Goleman, Druskat, and Wolff address one group of essential building blocks for enduring team performance--emotional intelligence. Katzenbach and Smith address the other--mutual accountability based on collective discipline. As they explain, a truly disciplined team has

  1. a common purpose,
  2. specific performance goals,
  3. complementary skills,
  4. commitment to how the work gets done, and
  5. mutual accountability

The authors also outline the critical challenges faced by three kinds of teams: those whose purpose is to make recommendations, those that make or do things, and those that run things.


Office Premises is now closed

Contact Info

Mobile: +353 (0)87 2326927
Email: info@synergy.ie

Find Us