Good leadership comes from inside

May 27, 2008
By: Vicki Bell

How important is good leadership? Extremely important. Poor leadership can cause a massive talent drain and cripple a company. When it comes to leadership, emotional intelligence can make the difference between a good leader and one who needs work to become an asset rather than a liability.

Office workers meeting

Have you ever voluntarily changed jobs? If so, what prompted you to make a change? Was it a move up the career ladder? More money? Better benefits? All of the above? Or was it perhaps because you no longer could stand working for your boss?

"People don't leave jobs, they leave managers" is an oft-uttered statement. While the statement is a generalization—people leave jobs for myriad reasons—there is enough weight behind it to reinforce the importance of quality leadership, which is especially important when good workers are difficult to find.

According to Elizabeth LaPierre of Massachusetts-based Stone + Company, people with good bosses are four times less likely to leave than are those with bad bosses.

Everyone knows someone who left a job because of a boss. I have a friend who referred to leaving a former job as having a "bossectomy." She is one of the most gifted, loyal, hard-working employees I have ever known … definitely not a quitter. She left because she could no longer stomach her boss, plain and simple.

There's no question that leaders need to be good leaders. And it's entirely possible to turn a bad leader into a good leader. It takes a genuine desire by the individual to improve, introspection, and hard work, but the results are well worth the effort.

Thoughts Before Actions

Stone + Company, an organization that helps develop leaders, believes that everyone can be a leader under the right circumstances and that leadership starts from inside. To build a more effective leader, you have to start with a person's thoughts before you can improve skills and behaviors.

In her article "The Importance of Emotional Intelligence," LaPierre said, "Emotional intelligence (EI) impacts many areas under the umbrella of organizational effectiveness, such as in the areas of retention and leadership. Turnover rates can be very costly to organizations and can deeply affect the bottom line. The upside is that employees are more likely to stay with bosses who manage EI.

In explaining EI, LaPierre cited Drs. Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, authors of The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book, who define emotional intelligence as"a fluid, social ability that explains how an individual recognizes, understands, and manages emotions personally and with others."

EI, also referred to as emotional quotient (EQ or EIQ), is unlike a person's IQ in that the skills can be taught and developed over time.

EI is a requisite for good leadership, especially when those you lead might not be very far along in their own EI development. Before the terms EI and EQ came into vogue, how we interacted with others was called people skills. Good leaders have good people skills.

Why EI Matters

Since psychologist Daniel Goleman first suggested in his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, that our EIQ is as important as our ability to reason, or IQ, much has been written about the topic, and educational centers have added courses in emotional intelligence development.

According to Goleman, self-awareness and impulse control, persistence, zeal and self-motivation, empathy, and social deftness characterize EI. He proposes that these are the qualities that mark people who excel in real life—whose intimate relationships flourish and who are stars in the workplace. He also says they are the hallmarks of character, self-discipline, altruism, and compassion, and that lack of EI can sabotage the intellect and ruin careers, plus take an enormous toll on personal relationships.

That is not to say that IQ doesn't matter. In a blog poston his Web site, Goleman wrote that he is appalled at how many people misread his work and make the preposterous claim, for instance, that "EIQ accounts for 80 percent of success."

Goldman says he never made that claim. "It's absurd.My argument is that emotional and social skills give people advantages in realms where such abilities make the most difference, like love and leadership.EI trumps IQ in 'soft' domains, where intellect matters relatively little for success. That said, another such arena where EI matters more than IQ is in performance at work, when comparing people with roughly the same educational backgrounds (like MBAs or accountants)—which is exactly what goes on in human resource departments of companies every day.

"Technical expertise, in turn, represents the major set of threshold competencies that determine whether a person can get and keep a job in a given field. IQ, then, plays a sorting function in determining what jobs people can hold. However, having enough cognitive intelligence to hold a given job does not by itself predict whether one will be a star performer or rise to management or leadership positions in one's field.

"IQ washes out when it comes to predicting who, among a talented pool of candidates within an intellectually demanding profession, will become the strongest leader. In part this is because of the floor effect: everyone at the top echelons of a given profession, or at the top levels of a large organization, has already been sifted for intellect and expertise. At those lofty levels a high IQ becomes a threshold ability, one needed just to get into and stay in the game."

Getting Ahead in the Game

Smart companies offer managerial training that covers people skills. Often this training begins with an assessment test that measures leadership skills. Ideally, the training addresses areas in which managers need work and provides practical guidelines for improving.

Google emotional intelligence training and you'll retrieve more than 300,000 results, many from organizations promoting courses, seminars, workshops, and certifications. Unless you are familiar with the organization, research the provider and its offering before committing to a program.

Self-study is a great way to enhance your emotional intelligence, as long as you put into practice what you learn. See Recommended Reading at the end of this article for books on the topic.

EI is important for everyone, not just for leaders. But leaders deficient in EI cost their companies every time they drive good employees out the door.

Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (New York: Bantam Books, 1995).

Daniel Goleman, Working With Emotional Intelligence (New York: Bantam, 1998).

JeanNE Segal, Raising Your Emotional Intelligence: A Practical Guide (New York: Holt, 1997).

Adele B. Lynn, The Emotional Intelligence Activity Book: 50 Activities for Promoting EQ at Work (New York: HRD Press, 2002).

Daniel A. Feldman, The Handbook of Emotionally Intelligent Leadership: Inspiring Others to Achieve Results (Leadership Performance Solutions, 1999).

Vicki Bell

Vicki Bell

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8209