Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Emotionally and Socially Intelligent Leader

Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence (EI) is an important quality in a leader.  Barrett (2006) stated,
Emotional Intelligence is emotional and social knowledge and the ability to be aware of, understand, and express yourself, be aware of, understand and relate to others, deal with strong emotions and control your impulses, adapt to change, and to solve problems of a personal or a social nature. (p. 14)
Many studies have been published on how individuals with high emotional intelligence can enhance and increase the potential for positive outcomes.  For example, people can work to increase their emotional intelligence, thus, improving performance.  Emotional intelligence is a learned and practiced skill.  Goleman (2012) stated that for individuals in leadership positions, 85% of their competencies are in the EI domain.

In fact, one’s professional success can be improved when emotional intelligence is improved (Bradberry & Greaves, 2009).  EQ is so critical to success that it accounts for 58 percent of performance in all types of jobs.  It is the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence” (Bradberry & Greaves, 2009, pp. 20-21). (Bottom line that should appeal to all... more money can be made when you have a high EI.) 

Emotional intelligence “refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. Some researchers suggest that emotional intelligence can be learned and strengthened, while others claim it is an inborn characteristic” (Cherry, 2010).  Although we are born with emotions (consider a crying or laughing baby). However, we are born with the intelligence to develop and refine our emotions.  Learning when and how to use these emotions to gain the trust of others is emotional intelligence.  Work and personal relationships can be positively affected by EI.

Social Intelligence
Social intelligence requires the leader get beyond his or her own needs and focus on what the individual or group needs to be successful” (Mueller, n.d.).  A socially intelligent individual can evaluate the emotional environment of a group of people, and then make a constructive response.  When a person has social intelligence, he or she can lead a group into being creative, thinking as a team, and discovering inventive methods to conquer barriers.  In simple terms, social intelligence can be called 'people sense' or 'people smarts'.  Social intelligence is not just associated with work relationships, but it is also related to personal relationships.
Goleman and Boyatzis (2008) found that emotions were based off of experiences and one could not experience one without the other.  Social intelligence is “a set of interpersonal competencies built on specific neural circuits (and related endocrine systems) that inspire others to be effective” (Goleman & Boyatzis, 2008).

Emotional and Social intelligence are being used as new leadership models.  For example, when looking at candidates for a job, employers are seeking those that show emotional and social intelligence.  Murphy (2012) stated,

Virtually every job (from neurosurgeon to engineer to cashier) has tests that can assess technical proficiency. But what those tests don’t assess is attitude; whether a candidate is motivated to learn new skills, think innovatively, cope with failure, assimilate feedback and coaching, collaborate with teammates, and so forth. (para. 4)

The former Southwest Airlines CEO, Herb Kelleher, stated, “we can change skill levels through training, but we can’t change attitude” (Murphy, 2012).

It seems to be very hard to dissect emotional intelligence from social intelligence.  We are born with the ability to form emotions and grow up in a social world where we must express our emotions appropriately.  As a corporate trainer, I had coached several managers on communications and dealing with one's emotions.  I told the audience to remember this: "When in doubt about saying something wrong, count to ten and don't say anything at all.  Let your brain kick in.  Get your emotional and social intelligence in line... then, you can speak with a calmer more rationale voice."  The very next day a co-worker did something downright irresponsible.  My rage was rising to the top and I was about ready to spew words that just were not professional.  I stopped and pulled together my thoughts.  Never let them see you sweat!

Author: Andree C. Swanson, EdD

Barrett, D. J. (2006). Leadership communication: A communication approach for senior-level managers. Rice University. Retrieved from http://scholarship.rice.educ/handel/1911/27037
Bradberry, T., & Greaves, J. (2009). Emotional Intelligence 2.0. San Diego, CA: TalentSmart.
Cherry, K. (2010). Emotional Intelligence - What Is Emotional Intelligence. Psychology - Complete Guide to Psychology for Students, Educators & Enthusiasts. Retrieved from
Goleman, D. (2012). “Emotional intelligence: Issues in paradigm building.” Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations.
Goleman, D., & Boyatzis, R. (2008). Social intelligence and the biology of leadership. Harvard Business Review, 1-4. Retrieved from
Mueller, A. (n.d.). How to enhance your physical, emotional, social and spiritual intelligence Retrieved from
Murphy, M. (2012, Jan). Hire for attitude. Forbes. Retrieved from

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