Jun 10 2019| Leadership
by Phil Eyre Founder
Kaaren and I were delighted to be invited to speak at the Emotional Intelligence Symposium at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in May. The aim was to stimulate thinking and debate about the role of emotional intelligence (EI) in leadership, and to understand the place of psychometric assessments and other tools as well as how this type of work might be beneficial to the British Army.
As practitioners with particular expertise in applying insight from psychometrics, we were pleased to bring our perspectives and to address the audience’s challenges, alongside Dr Martin, Managing Director of RocheMartin, and Craig Darroch, Global Head of Senior Leader & Executive Development at Shell.
Emotional Intelligence and Effective Leadership
Emotional intelligence has a critical role to play in effective leadership. It was fascinating to explore this proposition in a military context, and alongside some exceptionally experienced decision makers and leaders.
These are our top five learnings from the day:
Leaders who are self-aware, recognising the conditions that evoke their positive and negative responses and understanding their impact on others, are more effective in motivating and leading other people.
Since Dan Goleman opened the whole field of emotional intelligence in his seminal book Emotional Intelligence, Why it can Matter More than IQ, there has been an explosion in research and practice that demonstrates the significance of emotionally intelligent leadership.
Anyone reading this who has worked for a manager low in emotional intelligence will know this already. Whether a ‘bully boss’, an inconsistent leader, someone seemingly uncaring or who treats others as mere cogs in a machine, the impact on other people is demotivating, de-energising and, in some cases, dangerous.
In contrast, emotionally intelligent leaders take time to understand where their decisions, responses and actions come from and choose to regulate these for optimum impact. Whether in the military, business, government or charity - any and all sectors - this gives an advantage over leaders with low EI.
Whilst definitions of what constitutes emotional intelligence vary, there is an attribute that stands out as being significantly influential - empathy.
Empathy is the ability to understand other people’s perspectives, to put yourself ‘in their shoes’ and grasp where they are coming from, despite your own bias and feelings, and is a key factor in emotional intelligence. Dr Martin demonstrated this in his work at RocheMartin, where empathy is one of a number of factors in their emotional capital tools.
In our work, we have similar findings. Leaders who are high in empathy are better able to lead and engage their teams. Empathy can be developed by:
- Actively listening to others; listening to learn, not just to respond. Paying proper attention when someone is speaking, e.g. to body language cues as well as the words spoken.
- Actively seeking feedback from others that will be clear and honest.
- Taking time to reflect on your responses and emotions to understand bias.
- Taking time to ask other people about their responses and emotions.
- Choosing to be curious; asking questions and exploring new (and uncomfortable) disciplines and experiences.
Insight from human data provides an objective and clear basis on which to gain self-awareness and team awareness.
Standard personality assessments are not enough; whilst interesting, these simply show what’s happening on the surface. It is important to incorporate personal values, mindset and motivation into the analysis, via proven, validated assessments.
For example, a personality test might identify you as a ‘dominant red’, typically demanding, decisive, short-tempered, direct and often expressing frustration. Whilst this might help to explain how you respond and communicate, it doesn’t tell you much about why you do what you do.
Incorporating personal values enriches the insight. Someone who cares about aesthetics - harmony, balance, peace, beauty and form - will usually prefer peace and avoid conflict, even if they have a ‘dominant red’ personality style.
We utilise psychometric tools in a sophisticated way, not just because of the objective rigour that they provide, but because they bring fast and clear insight that helps our clients - whether individuals or teams - to quickly advance their self-awareness, the beginning of emotionally intelligent leadership.
Personality assessments alone are not enough, deeper analysis with predictive power is needed. In our work, we combine insight into personality style with values, mindsets, capacities and, crucially, the quality of motivation, which together provide a predictive and measurable basis on which to assess productive and counterproductive skill in human factors - substantially, emotional intelligence. We see the change not just anecdotally, but with data too.
A case study
For example, a client in a leadership role was experiencing stress, low responsiveness, poor decision making and carelessness in their interactions. We identified these issues using two psychometric tools, including the root cause - a martyr mindset. With our coaching support (and challenge), our client put new actions in place, challenging their old habits of thought and behaviour in order to establish more productive habits.
After 12 months their life had improved dramatically, reflected in their psychometric survey results; their curiosity had increased by over 50%, agility by 30%, decision pace by 40% and their martyr mindset had dropped an incredible 60 points. It was all their effort, not ours, but the psychometrics significantly helped them to understand the key issues and identify strengths to draw from.
Intellective components of intelligence will always be important. In the context of the military, ‘intelligence’ regarding enemy planning and movement is crucial. However, the pace of change is accelerating and many of the issues we face are less local and more global, making emotional intelligence at least as important as technical skill.
During the conference, Craig Darroch helped us to understand this in the context of Shell, a global, complex business. Leaders increasingly need to lead themselves well in order to lead others and the business.
Integrity matters in all aspects of life. Leaders who are humbly self-assured are better able to seek external perspectives that help to create opportunities and reduce risk.
Leaders high in emotional intelligence:
- Understand their strengths and weaknesses, harnessing strengths to overcome blind spots.
- Self-regulate their responses, acting intentionally rather than impulsively and carelessly.
- Are motivated to overcome short-term struggles for long-term gains. They enjoy the challenge, seeking personal and professional growth over short-term comfort.
- Are high in empathy, understanding the needs and perspectives of others without judgement.
- Possess social skills, empowering their team to develop and perform, communicate with clarity and nurture mutually beneficial relationships.
These are crucial skills for the leadership of any organisation.
How emotionally intelligent is your leadership? How emotionally intelligent is your leadership team? We are here to help you advance. Call today to find out how.