The narrative around brave leadership has typically been one of physical strength and stoicism, where leaders are held to the highest standards of intellectual intelligence and fortitude of character. However, this narrative as old as oral storytelling has neglected to reflect the importance of emotional intelligence (EQ) in distinguishing great leaders from the rest. Today, brave leaders are authentic leaders that express an acute mastery of EQ.
Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer first coined the term 'Emotional Intelligence' in 1990, describing it as "a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one's thinking and action." It wasn’t until 1995 that psychologist, Daniel Goleman popularized the concept with his same-titled book. And in 1998, he applied the concept to business with his publication “What Makes a Leader.” In his study, after analyzing behavior of executives at over 200 companies, he found that emotional intelligence (EQ) was twice as important as IQ and technical ability in driving performance.
Goleman identified five critical components of emotional intelligence:
Self-awareness here means understanding one’s own emotions and the effect on others. Goleman’s research shows that self-aware leaders are confident and candid about their strengths and weaknesses. They have the capacity to reflect, which allows them to make good decisions in terms of what “feels right”. When combining their gut sense with hard data, the outcome is extremely fruitful.
Self-regulation is the ability to control or redirect impulses. Self-regulated leaders are comfortable with ambiguity, open to change and suspend judgment. They are highly adaptable because of their self-management of emotions.
Motivation is passion to work with energy, and persistence beyond monetary and statutory incentives. Motivated leaders are driven, goal-oriented, optimistic and committed to the mission of their organization. They have a long-term purpose, a “why” guiding their decisions.
Empathy relates to understanding the emotional needs of others. Empathetic leaders are successful in managing cross-cultural sensitivities, empowering employees and colleagues, and retaining talent. They are extremely tuned into how individuals and groups feel and express the desire to make them feel supported, heard, and valued.
Social skill is the proficiency in managing relationships, developing networks, building rapport and finding common ground. Socially-savvy leaders are the most authentic leaders in their ability to communicate and inspire.
Six styles of leadership emerged out of Goleman’s research:
The Visionary Leader: the forward-looking leader who shares their vision of change and innovation;
The Coaching Leader: the leader who cares about their employees accomplishing their career goals;
The Affiliative Leader: the leader who create a space for people to enjoy themselves and working with each other;
The Democratic Leader: the leader who creates cohesion and brings people together to collaborate and brainstorm creatively for solutions and implement common work strategies;
The Pace-setting Leader: the leader who holds everyone around them to an impossible standard and who judges anyone who doesn’t meet their expectations;
The Commanding Leader: the leader who emotionally bullies their employees through blowouts, shame and guilt.
The first four styles are clear demonstrations of high emotional intelligence producing different forms of exemplary leadership. However, the last two styles show very little emotional intelligence, which can create a toxic and disengaging work environment.
Goleman argues that the real role of a leader is to get the people working in their optimal mode for best results. Hence, an emotionally intelligent leader has the responsibility of driving the mindset or state of being that is going to help employees perform at their best. As researcher Brene Brown said: "A leader is someone who holds her- or himself accountable for finding potential in people and processes."
The conclusion from Goleman’s research is that intellectual intelligence and technical ability are just the baseline for leaders. Emotional intelligence is a deciding factor for true success- one that can be trained in leaders. EQ can be increased in individuals whereas IQ stays static. Still, it demands courage to work on our emotional intelligence and be honest with ourselves about our strengths and weaknesses, and what we need from others. Therefore, I think our courage in accepting our own vulnerability is crucial to nurturing the five components of emotional intelligence.
Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, has studied shame and vulnerability over many years and interviewed people from around the world on these topics. In one of her widely-watched TED talks, she states that “vulnerability is not weakness. Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage -- to be vulnerable, to let ourselves be seen, to be honest (...) vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” This speaks to the philosophical notion that only through first loving and being kind to ourselves can we then practice compassion towards other people. Being vulnerable is not comfortable or necessarily enjoyable, but it is the only way of achieving authenticity.
In my opinion, authenticity is the embodiment of the 5 components of emotional intelligence, and thus, the most important trait a leader can cultivate and nurture. Authenticity establishes deeper connection among leaders and their supporters, employees, colleagues, and peers. Authenticity allows leaders to prioritize their goals and stay true to their real purpose. Authenticity frees leaders from shame and ego and helps them recognize their own failures and shortcomings.
As quoted in Brown’s book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Roosevelt says it all in 1910: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
This article was written and edited by Jessica Newfield.