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Emotional Intelligence is a Necessary Attribute for a Leader

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In the past, leadership and management positions were reserved for those considered to have high cognitive intelligence and/or technical acumen. In the past two decades, the importance of emotional intelligence has become more widely accepted and recognized. Goleman (2014) suggests of emotional intelligence, “Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still wont make a great leader. ” In other words, an employee that is exceptionally intelligent or highly skilled is not guaranteed to be a successful or effective leader.

Two small examples of this theory immediately come to mind: Firstly, I had a high school math teacher that was highly intelligent and exceptionally great at math. She loved math, so it made perfect sense that she would become a math teacher. Unfortunately, her lack of emotional intelligence lead her to be one of the worst teachers that I have had. She lacked a few of Goleman’s five components of emotional intelligence. She had very low self-awareness which showed in her lack of confidence while teaching. Since math came as second nature to her, she had very low empathy for students who did not grasps new concepts quickly enough and she would move on to the next lesson without checking on Lastly, she had low social skills, which decreased the class’s motivation to push past our frustration. There is no doubt that she possessed very high skill level in terms of math. Unfortunately she was not able to transfer that to her class because she was not emotionally intelligent.

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The second example is sports related. I ran track competitively for a number of years. Although I was not the fastest person on the team, my coach thought I would make a good team captain because of my perceived leadership abilities. Back then, I did not know what to make of that idea, but now I can breakdown the possible characteristics that my coach observed. While I certainly did not possess all of the five components of emotional intelligence although young, I possessed empathy, self-management, a high level of motivation, and after my faster, more skilled teammates got over me being chosen as team captain, social skills.

These two personal examples serve as an illustration of the theory that you do not have to be the best to be the best leader and equally, someone that might be considered the best in their field may not be able to translate that success into a productive team. I believe it is important to note that although anyone can hold a position of power or leadership, but there is a great difference between a leader and a great leader. Emotional intelligence is important in leadership because it enables transparency, collaboration, positivity, trust, increased productivity, adaptability, motivation and so much more. Goleman (2014) states “…when senior managers had a critical mass of emotional intelligence capabilities, their divisions outperformed yearly earnings goals by 20 percent. ” Goleman outlines the five components of emotional intelligence. A person or team that possess one or more of them has a higher likelihood of success in leadership. Transparency: The self-aware leader knows and is in-tuned with themselves.

Thus, can be open and realistic with others. This openness creates a close bond and trusting environment.

Positivity: A leader that has mastered the art of self-management will be able to control their reactions and impulses in unfavorable situations. This thoughtful and positive thought practice can trickle down and thus produce an overall positive environment.

Adaptability: another benefit of self-management is the willingness to work hard despite ambiguity or change. Someone who can control their emotional reactions is likely to be on board during times of change while others might withdraw or resist. Someone that exhibits control is more prone to solving problems or working through crisis.

Collaboration: a collaborative environment is a necessity for success in any team, company. An effective leader will foster a collaborative environment and possessing social skills is a sure way to accomplish such. A great leader understands that great work is rarely produced alone. In some way or another, there are multiple individuals involved in business practices. Building and maintaining rapport with those both within and outside of your team may not have immediate affects but can pay off in the long run. Being able to affectively work in a team is one of the most requested attributes of employers. Although skills and cognitive ability are still vital, it is emotional intelligence that can truly drive a team, a company or population to produce powerful results. Emotional intelligence is an absolute necessity for successful leadership.


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