Emotional Intelligence – in Davos?

Emotional Intelligence is almost always a better predictor of success than IQ alone … and it can be developed

Perhaps surprisingly, Emotional Intelligence was among the many topics at the 2014 World Economic Forum in Davos, attended by business leaders and politicians from around the globe. The BBC World Service programme ‘In the Balance’, reported that a keynote session on ‘Emotional Intelligence and Business’ by Professor Sigal Barsade of the Wharton business school was an instant sell out with business leaders keen to talk about how to better understand their people.

In brief, Emotional Intelligence (EI) is about how self-awareness and the ability to empathise impact on self-management and our relationships with others. Research has shown that EI is almost always a better predictor of success than IQ alone.

Emotional Intelligence is not new. Indeed, since the principles were elaborated by Goleman in the mid 1990s I have worked extensively with the concept and with the Boyatzis, Goleman, Hay Emotional Competence Inventory.

So why the sudden interest?

Firstly, while economic indicators are looking more positive for the first time in some years, the recession has changed the business landscape. There are new opportunities but also new ways of working that can lead to uncertainty. We need the reassurance of looking at things in a wider, longer term context. Good leadership and an ability to connect with people and inspire confidence is essential. Emotional intelligence plays a big part in this.

Secondly, there is a new generation of employees emerging. Those in Generation Y seek openness, an interactive approach and personal engagement. They are individualistic yet collaborative. The focus on empathy and understanding others – an essential aspect of emotional intelligence – is central to being able to manage and lead this generation.

Where do I start?

EI modelEmotional Intelligence isn’t simply a ‘skill’ to be acquired. It is more a state of mind, a way of approaching the world. Developing our emotional intelligence enables us to be flexible and adaptable in leadership style.

There are four primary components that have a bearing on how we relate to others, which that flow in sequence:

Self-Awareness
Self-awareness is the cornerstone of EI – our ability to recognise how our emotions affect our behaviour and performance. Accurate self-assessment (knowing our own resources, abilities and limits) enables us to have a degree of self-confidence and a sense of self-worth based on knowing our capabilities.

Self-Management
This self-awareness equips us to manage ourselves, keeping emotions under control and acting in line with our own values. Self-management is about resilience too – having persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and set-backs. And it’s about willingness to be adaptable, take the initiative and strive for achievement.

Social Awareness
In turn, self-awareness contributes to social awareness – having empathy with other individuals, sensing their feelings and their perspectives and taking interest in their concerns. It means having organisational awareness – understanding groups, informal structures, power relationships and organisational politics. It also underpins ‘service orientation’ – the ability to anticipate, recognise and meet the needs of customers, clients and others.

Relationship Management
These foundations provide a basis for effective relationship management, including the ability to influence others, to handle conflict and to develop teamwork and collaboration. This also extends to providing inspirational leadership and acting as a catalyst for change.

What next?

With the world’s business leaders realising that the old ‘command and control’ style of leadership won’t cut it in the new economy or with the emerging generation of employees (and potential leaders), perhaps the coming years will see a new, fresher approach to leadership emerge with Emotional Intelligence at the core.

Jo Ouston