Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

Emotionally Intelligent Leaders
Emotional Intelligence for Leaders

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

Multiple studies have shown that the most successful leaders in organisations are those that have higher levels of Emotional Intelligence.

Study after study proves that the best, most successful leaders have higher developed Emotional Intelligence than others. Not only that, but emotionally intelligent leaders tend to stay with and organization longer, and influence others to do the same.

To learn how to develop the EI skills to become a great leader, try our course on EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE FOR LEADERS.

In a study at a large beverage company, the difference in hiring methods was studied. In cases where division presidents were hired with traditional methods, 50 percent of them left within two years. Most of them left due to poor performance. When the company switched to using emotional competencies as a selection factor for division presidents, only six percent of them left in the next two years. But the difference didn’t stop there. The ones that were chosen based on their EI were more likely to be in the top third of performance ratings and surpassed their performance targets by between 15 and 20 percent.

In an article published in the Huffington post by Chip Hartley in 2011, Hartley identified 10 Fortune 500 CEO’s who are known for their high levels of EI.

Let’s look at how some these leaders might (or might not) display some of the characteristics of emotionally intelligent leaders using Goleman’s 4 categories: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management.

Some of these leaders included in Hartley’s list:

Jeff Bezos (Amazon.com) –  the case for Jeff Bezos being an exemplary EI leader may be questionable – he is known for creating a highly ambitious work culture, where a 60-hour week was not unusual. It appears that many managers left Amazon, because they couldn’t handle working weekends and late hours. They wanted to spend more time with family.

Being emotionally intelligent as a leader does not mean being ‘soft’ on employees. But it does mean the leader has a high degree of organizational awareness, a focus on service, and a level of empathy to understand, and respond to the needs and expectations of employees (the Elements of Social Awareness).

Ursula Burns (Xerox) – Ursula Burn’s appointment to CEO of Xerox marked two milestones: the first time an African-American woman was named CEO of a major corporation, and the first time a woman succeeded another woman in the top job at, a company of such a large size. She is known to be self-aware and authentic (Self-Awareness). Here are a few quotes from Ursula Burns:

  • “Think about your health, physically and mentally.”
  • “Seek your entire life to find balance. You should have balance, on average, over time – not in a day or in a month.”
  • “The fact that I did it faster than others has nothing to do with my race and gender. It was my performance.”

She is also known for her honesty and straight talking.

“Being kind doesn’t always mean that you’re smiling and happy. Kind means that you’re real with each other and that you can have a set of constructive, I call them fast-paced discussions. And so, you’ve got to build up relationships to allow that to happen, without having a whole lot of scar tissue at the end.” (Elements of good Relationship Management)

Alan Mulally (Ford) – Mulally is credited with having turned Ford around. After being close to bankruptcy in 2006, Ford has posted an annual profit every year since 2009.

Mulally also displays some of the key characteristics of an Emotionally Intelligent CEO. Here is a quote reflecting his personal approach and indicative of the EI attribute of ‘Self-Awareness’.

“Everybody always talks about how you need to manage your time. You need to manage your energy as well. You first have to ask, “What gives me energy?” There can be lots of sources: your family, exercise, your spiritual well-being. Try to combine those, along with your work demands, into one integrated calendar so that everything is built into your lifestyle. You can get beyond having to tell yourself, “OK, I’m going to have my family life next year in August, on vacation.” Instead, jot down what is important to you, see if you have allocated time for it, and adjust the calendar if necessary.

Indra Nooyi (Pepsi) –  Nooyi manages a corporate family of over 300,000 employees, and is considered a role model for many aspiring managers across the United States. Indra Nooyi writes blog posts every other week to maintain a relationship with employees. She even writes letters to their parents to thank them for their children. She wrote to the parents of 29 senior Pepsi executives, to tell them what great kids they’d raised.

Indra has said “If you only want people to help you when you need them and not have an ongoing relationship with them, they don’t know you, they don’t know where you come from, and they are doubtful whether you really are interested in the issue, or are you just trying to skate over a current problem?” (Relationship Management at its best).

We can see also evidence of her high level of Social Awareness in this quote:  “300,000 people in PepsiCo depend on PepsiCo for their life and their livelihoods. There are pensioners and investors out there who are hoping PepsiCo will remain a successful entity forever”

Howard Schultz (Starbucks) – Founder and current CEO of the modern Starbucks, favours a transformational leadership approach. Typically, in transformational leadership, the leader and followers are bound together through the strength of the Leader’s vision and personality, leaving an impact of its followers to garner trust respect and admiration. Howard Schultz’s style revolves around motivation and inspiration of his followers. He is said to allow, encourage, and seek feedback and advice from his employees, using a combination of personal calls and emails to achieve it. Schultz is known for giving power to employees in decision making, and also the flexibility to choose their own working hours. The company was one of the first to offer comprehensive health care, as well as offer stock options and other benefits to part-time employees, working at least 20 hours a week. This is indicative of both Social Awareness and good Relationship Management.

Northouse (2016) outlines that Schutz’s “focus on the inner theatre” provides insight into how an individual’s past relationships affect their future self, behaviours, and relationships. The story of Schultz growing up in poverty, is a foundational message provided to employees through training, and is even shared with customers and shareholders, through marketing and communications. Schultz claimed in an interview with Forbes, “It was not the calling of coffee, but the calling to try to build a company that my father never got a chance to work for” (Gallo, 2013, para. 4). This insight is indicative of a strong sense of Self-Awareness.

In these very limited profiles of some of the leading CEO’s of our time, we have seen evidence of the Emotional Intelligence that great leaders need to possess.

To learn how to develop the EI skills to become a great leader, try our course on EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE FOR LEADERS.

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