In an article written for the Harvard Business Review (HBR) in 1998, Daniel Goleman introduced "emotional intelligence" as a critical factor in leadership success. In analyzing leadership qualities on three dimensions -- technical capability, cognitive ability (intelligence) and emotional intelligence -- he found emotional intelligence to be twice as important as the other two qualities in driving outstanding business performance. If you are a leader in any kind of organization, it is a fascinating read.
Goleman's research on 188 global companies found that emotional intelligence had five components. His definitions for each are below:
- Self-awareness: Having a deep understanding of your emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs and drives.
- Self-regulation: The ability to control your emotions and channel them in positive ways.
- Motivation: The drive to achieve beyond expectations.
- Empathy: Considering other people's feelings, among many other factors, in making intelligent decisions.
- Social skill: The ability to move people to agreement in a friendly way.
Goleman notes that David McClelland, a world renowned researcher in human and organizational behavior, found that leaders with high emotional intelligence outperformed annual earnings goals by 20 per cent. Those with low emotional intelligence underperformed by 20 per cent.
It occurred to us that Goleman's findings on emotional intelligence be applied to entire companies. In other words, does your company have the emotional intelligence to be a leader. If leaders with emotional intelligence outperform the average by 20 per cent, can't companies with high emotional intelligence do the same?
We believe the answer is yes. Like people, companies have personalities. These personalities are either clear and compelling or muddy and, well, not so compelling. Either way, they act like a magnet: the clear and compelling ones attracting customers and the muddy ones repelling.
Looking back at the five criteria for emotional intelligence, below are some questions you can ask of your organization to determine if it has high emotional intelligence:
- Self-awareness: Does your research indicate or would outsiders say that your organization has a deep understanding of your emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs and drives? Does your company have the ability to apologize? Is it humble? Does it have the ability to admit its weaknesses and strive to improve them?
- Self-regulation: Does your research indicate or would outsiders say that your organization has the ability to control its emotions and channel them in a positive way? Does your company have the ability to put its own emotions aside when it is under attack and just deal with the facts of the situation? Does it have the ability to ignore the sometimes extreme emotions of outsiders in order to discern what is the real issue that is being raised? Does it have the ability to forgive its employees when they fail, recognizing that it is the best way to learn and innovate (e.g., the discovery of Post-It Notes)?
- Motivation: Does your research indicate or would outsiders say that your company has a drive to achieve beyond expectations? The key word here is "achieve", because the company can be motivated toward a lot of other things, both positive and negative, but a single focus on achievement is what contributes to emotional intelligence. Are your people able to ignore or suppress internal politics in order to work together toward a common, compelling and well defines goal?
- Empathy: Does your research indicate or would outsiders say that your organization has empathy? Would customers say that your products or services, and the entire experience of dealing with your company, are designed with empathy? Would suppliers say they are treated with respect, even during tough negotiations or disputes about how they are serving you? Even if your company has empathy, does it act as if it has empathy?
- Social skills: Does your research indicate or would outsiders say that your company has the social skills to inspire people, to find common ground, to compromise and gain buy-in?
Each of the above bullet points starts with statement "Does your research indicate or would outsiders say..." This implies that you can't actually answer these questions yourself. You need to hear from outsiders (customers, suppliers, donors, other stakeholders) whether or not THEY perceive you to be this way. Trying to self-report on any of these criteria makes it too easy for you to answer in glowing terms, while at the same time being blind to how your organization is perceived. To have high emotional intelligence, and reap its leadership benefits, it is far more important what others think of you than what you think of yourself.