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How Emotional Intelligence Became a Key Leadership Skill

Stashed in: Leadership!, Emotion, HBR, Leadership, Give and Take, Emotional Intelligence

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These five things:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation (defined as “a passion for work that goes beyond money and status”)
  • Empathy for others
  • Social skills, such as proficiency in managing relationships and building networks

I like that Adam Grant makes an appearance in this article.

The year that Mayer and Salovey coined the term emotional intelligence was the same year functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was invented, making it possible for the first time to see what was happening in the brain while it was in action. Goleman’s work is infused with these insights, and HBR has reported on the most surprising research in this area, particularly in the last five years:

And just this month, HBR’s editors reported on the strong link between empathetic leaders and financial performance. Collectively they form an impressive and growing body of evidence suggesting the integrated nature of our rational and emotional selves and the impossibility and inadvisability of separating the two at work.

Still, it is sign that the field is reaching a certain level of maturity that we are beginning to see some counterarguments. Most notably, a Wharton professor, Adam Grant, who in his own research has reported a lack of correlation between scores on tests of emotional intelligence and business results. While Goleman and others contest his methods, Mayer himself pointed out in 2002 HBR article that “emotional intelligence isn’t the only way to attain success as a leader. A brilliant strategist who can maximize profits may be able to hire and keep talented employees even if he or she doesn’t have strong personal connections with them.” But building those strong connections is still probably a safer bet than ignoring them.

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