How’s Your EI
There are five components to emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill.
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 she works poorly under tight deadlines, for example, will work hard to plan her time carefully, and will let her 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.
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.
Consider two division Directors at a company forced to make layoffs. One Director gave a hard-hitting speech emphasizing the number of people who would be fired. The other Director, 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 Director demoralized his talented people—most of whom ended up leaving his division voluntarily.
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.
Michael Shapiro, Dynamic Management Solutions, Inc.