I’ve recently had some discussions with clients regarding whether employing the competencies of Emotional Intelligence in their leadership style will accelerate or decelerate their productivity and progress. Study after study has shown that leaders who sharpen and employ EI skills consistently outperform peers who lead through variations of the stereotypical Command-Control model. Additionally, companies which promote the use of EI skills outdistance competitors who haven’t refined their corporate cultures. Despite these results, many people still feel that creating an EI culture will soften the performance and results of their company/division/department.
I believe that there are common sense perspectives we can take and observations we can make in an effort to “make the case” for the use of EI in leadership and in a company’s culture. As an example, when selecting someone for employment in a management/executive role, which set of traits and skills do you value most – technical skills or people skills? My response and the response of every leader I’ve spoken with is the same – people skills. Why is that? Isn’t technical competency important? After all, isn’t “getting the job done” what it’s all about? The answer of course is that technical skills ARE important and productivity IS important. It’s just that they are fairly easy to come by. It’s relatively easy to find a competent engineer or accountant, right? The challenge is finding someone who has those technical skills but also knows how to deal with people. One’s ability to deal effectively with people is the skill which make things happen. This brings us to my second example. In order for someone to be an effective leader, they must have followers. My contention is that under Command-Control leadership, people perform out of fear. They may be afraid of losing a job, not getting a raise, or being chastised by a superior. But they are basically obeying the commands of the person in charge, who in effect, controls them. The observation to be made here is that there is a large gap between obeying and following. People who obey do their work, but only to avoid the consequences of poor performance. Followers, on the other hand, are spurred on by a multitude of forces – both internal and external. It’s no wonder that EI-focused companies tend to be more innovative, have less turnover, and are more profitable.
The final common sense case for employing EI skills comes from each of us in our own experience. Can you remember a time in your work life (maybe even now) when a manager or boss didn’t respect you or your ideas, or when they displayed a lack of integrity? Have you ever had a boss blow up at you without hearing what you had to say or, even worse, for no apparent reason? How did these incidents affect your attitude at work (or even at home)? How did your shift in attitude affect your productivity or your interest in doing that little bit extra? Did you stop working? Of course not. Did you sabotage the efforts of the company? Not likely. But did your intentions, your interest, and your commitment suffer? I know mine always did. My commitment just wasn’t the same after that incident. And that’s the real cost of not employing Emotional Intelligence in leadership. Without followers, you can’t be a leader.
Employing Emotional Intelligence in leadership style is essential in accelerating growth, innovation, and profitability.