, Singapore

Leading with emotional intelligence

By Prof Sattar Bawany

The New Realities

Study after study, not to mention good old common sense, demonstrates the key to exceptional leadership lies in developing the leadership competencies related to people skills. Strengthening one's interpersonal skills elevates a person's leadership abilities and results dramatically.

These people skills are well defined and discussed within the concepts set forth in the groundbreaking work done by Daniel Goleman on Emotional Intelligence.

Studies have demonstrated that leaders who consistently outperform their peers not only have the technical skills required, but more importantly, have mastered most of the aspects of Emotional Intelligence.

Typically, everyone involved gets anxious, frustrated, worried and even angry at times. It’s bad enough to feel these emotions, but brain researchers have recently found that experiencing them actually inhibits cognitive function.

It’s called cortical inhibition, or more popularly “emotional hijacking.” So the old saying, “I was so upset I couldn’t think straight” is actually true.

Think about the last time you got mad at yourself for hitting a bad golf shot. What typically happens to your performance after that? It gets worse. When you experience negative emotions, you are not as likely to make the best decisions.

It’s normal to experience negative emotions, but most people don’t know how to positively manage these emotional reactions. The situation often escalates into open hostility or conflict between the leader and his boss, peers and team members.

Demystifying emotional intelligence
The term Emotional Intelligence (EI), often interchanged with the term Emotional Quotient (EQ), became popular after Daniel Goleman published his first book called ‘Emotional Intelligence’ in 1995.

In his best-selling book on emotional intelligence, Goleman pointed out that IQ only accounts for 20% of a person’s success in life; the rest is attributed to other factors including EQ.

“Emotional Intelligence (or “EI”) refers to the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, and for motivating and managing emotions in ourselves, and in our relationships”.

The discussion of EQ often begins with an emotional challenge from Aristotle, as stated in Goleman’s book:

“Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not easy”.

Studies have demonstrated that leaders who consistently outperform their peers not only have the technical skills required, but more importantly, have mastered most of the aspects of Emotional Intelligence.

The four main areas of Emotional Intelligence are: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management.

Many of the EI competencies are tightly related to one another, and improving competency in one area will often positively affect competency in another. Competence in each of these areas will help anyone become better at working with people.

Proficiency in certain sets of these competencies will propel a leader and an organization towards greater productivity, greater satisfaction, and increased profitability. Leaders who build these relationship competencies find they have a greater ability to improve their organization's profitability, growth, satisfaction, teamwork, and vision.

Developing emotional intelligence with executive coaching
Peter Drucker, the 20th century's greatest management guru, stated: "Success in the knowledge economy comes to those who know themselves “their strengths, their values, and how they best perform." (Harvard Business Review, March/April 1999).

Today, recent research in EQ has confirmed his belief and has demonstrated that the higher an individual ascends on the career arc, the more
critical EQ becomes to everyday success.

But if a client (coachee) and the sponsor organization are to discover the true power, impact and value of executive coaching in enhancing EQ and leadership performance, the executive coach needs a toolbox of behavior-change techniques that help build the momentum required to achieve significant performance enhancement.

The most important among these tools are "behavioral experiments" as the everyday, absolutely essential workhorse of the coaching process.

For example, a Baron EQ 360-degree feedback indicated that the coachee's direct reports experienced him as cool and aloof. The coachee was stunned by this perception, because he viewed his style as using a laissez-faire management strategy with adults, thinking that less managing was more.

However, it became indisputable from the 360 data that the coachee was seen as disconnected from and disinterested in his people.

Tools like 360-degree feedback and the behavior experiments that ensue link the step-by-step change process directly to the coachee's work life. They use the individual's work role as the primary medium in which the behavior experiments take place and performance strategies are refined. This is the only way to fight the inertia of the individual coachee’s comfort zone.

Throughout the coaching process, the coach needs to provide feedback "both positive and developmental" with great finesse. Both types of feedback are essential to create the optimal level of positive motivation to fuel the change process.

Further, because coachee commonly bring emotional baggage to the workplace, as well, the coach also has to be a skilled diagnostician to recognize the source of this baggage and help the coachee control and harness it.
At the same time, the coach has to enhance the coachee's self-awareness and self-monitoring abilities so the coachee can convert un-harnessed emotions to higher-order emotional intelligence.

Finally, to make sure the new leadership strategies continue over time, the coach has to build self-sustaining mechanisms into the coachee's performance-enhancement process.

At the back-end of this process, an effective goal-setting and action-planning template and methodology are required to ensure that the coachee sets meaningful and measurable performance targets and capitalizes on his or her own long-proven talents and strengths.

If the leader is able to recognize emotions, both his and those of the people he’s trying to work with (his boss, peers and subordinate), he can make better decisions about what to do or not do when facing opposition.

He’ll be able to spend more time doing his job and waste less time worrying about political maneuvers. He’ll contribute to making the transition smoother, which will help him and the company as a whole.

Using emotions as a source of information and learning to choose emotions in-the-moment allows rational thinking to prevail. Leaders who exercise these EI skills are able to think clearly about how they can work within the changes. They are much less likely to make an irrational decision to leave the company just when they are needed the most.

About the Author

Article by Prof Sattar Bawany, Managing Director & Master Executive Coach of
Executive Development Associates (EDA) for Asia Pacific, Senior Advisor of IPMA and
Adjunct Professor of Strategy of PGSM. He can be contacted at www.ipma.com.sg and
www.facebook.com/ipma.singapore .

Follow the link for more news on

Join Singapore Business Review community
Since you're here...

...there are many ways you can work with us to advertise your company and connect to your customers. Our team can help you dight and create an advertising campaign, in print and digital, on this website and in print magazine.

We can also organize a real life or digital event for you and find thought leader speakers as well as industry leaders, who could be your potential partners, to join the event. We also run some awards programmes which give you an opportunity to be recognized for your achievements during the year and you can join this as a participant or a sponsor.

Let us help you drive your business forward with a good partnership!