Emotional intelligence and the leadership bubble

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Studies show that EI [emotional intelligence] often outperforms IQ. Skilled knowledge workers are rarely managed; they choose to follow a leader they trust and respect – or they don’t. Many leaders seem to live in a bubble made of one-way glass. They don’t recognize or respond to the EI leadership needs of those around them, but their reports and colleagues can see – and hear – them clearly. Some leaders rely on their intellectual or educational credentials, even holding them out for the admiration and respect they so desperately want – and so rarely get.

IQ gets you in the door.
EQ [EI] gets you up the ladder.

The intellectual horsepower to make good critical decisions is important – and not all that rare. Being top of the IQ class in a world of peers doesn’t move the dial much on its own. And this ability is less important in a collaborative team environment where decisions are debated and fine-tuned before being implemented.

More rare is the leader who can inspire others to invest their time and talents in building toward a clear vision.

Those who manage to pierce the bubble with challenging questions or direct criticism are ‘not on board’. They are expected to get on board quickly – or move on. As the bubble becomes thicker and more opaque, the leader becomes more clueless and often more sure of their superior leadership abilities. Unfortunately, the fear of painful truth trumps the desire to understand, so most feedback doesn’t penetrate – or is dismissed. And the leaders who could break through are often fearful of upsetting the status quo – or of creating pain for their colleague – so they delay.

Inevitably, the bubble eventually collapses [too often the result of a long pattern of leadership failures as the best and brightest vote with their feet].

Setting clear expectations about emotional intelligence at all levels – in hiring and leadership development – can reduce the amount of low-EI fallout. Frequent communication and early coaching intervention are necessary to turn it around. Leadership means understanding how painful a necessary action may be – and summoning the leadership chutzpah to do it anyway. So…devote no more than 24 hours to deciding how and when to begin. Then buckle up and act!

© copyright Marilou Myrick, Masters Among Us, Inc. 2012. All rights reserved. Please contact us for permission:

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