Emotional Intelligence Has 12 Elements.
Which Do You Need to Work On?
Sarah is a well-liked manager of a small team. Kind and respectful, she is sensitive to the needs of others. She is a problem solver; she tends to see setbacks as opportunities. She’s always engaged and is a source of calm to her colleagues. Her manager feels lucky to have such an easy direct report to work with and often compliments Sarah on her high levels of emotional intelligence, or EI. And Sarah indeed counts EI as one of her strengths; she’s grateful for at least one thing she doesn’t have to work on as part of her leadership development.
It’s strange, though — even with her positive outlook, Sarah is starting to feel stuck in her career. She just hasn’t been able to demonstrate the kind of performance her company is looking for. So much for emotional intelligence, she’s starting to think.
The trap that has ensnared Sarah and her manager is a common one:
They are defining emotional intelligence much too narrowly. Because they’re focusing only on Sarah’s sociability, sensitivity, and likability, they’re missing critical elements of emotional intelligence that could make her a stronger, more effective leader. Recent research highlights the skills that a kind, positive manager like Sarah might lack:
- The ability to deliver difficult feedback to employees,
- The courage to ruffle feathers and drive change,
- The creativity to think outside the box.
But these gaps aren’t a result of Sarah’s emotional intelligence; they’re simply evidence that her EI skills are uneven.
In the model of EI and leadership excellence developed by Daniel Goleman and Richard E. Boyatzis over three decades of studying the strengths of outstanding leaders. They found that having a well-balanced array of specific EI capabilities prepares a leader for exactly these kinds of tough challenges.
There are many models of emotional intelligence, each with its own set of abilities; they are often lumped together as “EQ” in the popular vernacular.
Goleman and Boyatzis prefer the term “EI,” which is defined as comprising four different domains:
- Social awareness,
- Relationship management.
There are 12 separate competencies
Nested within each domain are 12 competencies. These are learned and learnable capabilities that allow outstanding performance at work or as a leader (see the image below). These include areas in which Sarah is clearly strong: empathy, positive outlook, and self-control. But they also include crucial abilities such as achievement, influence, conflict management, teamwork, and inspirational leadership. These skills require just as much engagement with emotions as the first set and should be just as much a part of any aspiring leader’s development priorities.
For example, if Sarah had strength in conflict management, she would be skilled in giving people unpleasant feedback. And if she were more inclined to influence, she would want to provide that difficult feedback to lead her direct reports and help them grow.
Say, for example, that Sarah has a peer who is overbearing and abrasive. Rather than smoothing over every interaction, with a broader balance of EI skills she could bring up the issue to her colleague directly, drawing on emotional self-control to keep her own reactions at bay while telling him what, specifically, does not work in his style. Bringing simmering issues to the surface goes to the core of conflict management. Sarah could also draw on influence strategy to explain to her colleague that she wants to see him succeed, and that if he monitored how his style impacted those around him, he would understand how a change would help everyone.
Similarly, if Sarah had developed her inspirational leadership competence, she would be more successful at driving change. A leader with this strength can articulate a vision or mission that resonates emotionally with both themselves and those they lead, which is a key ingredient in marshalling the motivation essential for going in a new direction. Indeed, several different studies have found a strong association between Emotional Intelligence, driving change, and visionary leadership.
To excel as a Leader
To excel, leaders need to develop a balance of strengths across the suite of Emotional Intelligence competencies. When they do that, excellent business results follow.
How can you tell where your Emotional Intelligence needs improvement — especially if you feel that it’s strong in some areas?
Simply reviewing the 12 competencies in your mind can give you a sense of where you might need some development. There are several formal models of Emotional Intelligence and many of them come with their own assessment tools. When choosing a tool to use, consider how well it predicts leadership outcomes.
Some assess how you see yourself; these correlate highly with personality tests, which also tap into a person’s “self-schema.”
Why a 360- degree assessment?
We recommend comprehensive 360-degree assessments, which collect both self-ratings and the views of others who know you well. This external feedback is particularly helpful for evaluating all areas of Emotional Intelligence, including self-awareness (how would you know that you are not self-aware?). You can get a rough gauge of where your strengths and weaknesses lie by asking those who work with you to give you feedback. The more people you ask, the better a picture you get.
Formal 360-degree assessments, which incorporate systematic, anonymous observations of your behaviour by people who work with you, have been found to not correlate well with IQ or personality, but they are the best predictors of a leader’s effectiveness, actual business performance, engagement, and job (and life) satisfaction.
Our own model and the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory, which rely on how others rate observable behaviours in evaluating a leader could be of help here. Contact me for more information.
The larger the gap between a leader’s self-ratings and how others see them, the fewer Emotional Intelligence strengths the leader actually shows, and the poorer the business results.
These assessments are critical to a full evaluation of your Emotional Intelligence, but even understanding that these 12 competencies are all a part of your emotional intelligence is an important first step in addressing areas where your Emotional Intelligence is at its weakest.
Coaching delivers best rewards
Coaching is the most effective method for improving in areas of EI deficit. Having expert support during your ups and downs as you practice operating in a new way is invaluable.
Even people with many apparent leadership strengths can stand to better understand those areas of Emotional Intelligence where we have room to grow. Don’t short-change your development as a leader by assuming that Emotional Intelligence is all about being sweet and chipper, or that your Emotional Intelligence is perfect if you are — or, even worse, assume that EI can’t help you excel in your career.
If you would like to find out more or if this is of interest, I would love the opportunity to talk to you about how you might benefit from our pay for what you use Business Coaching or a workshop.