By Clarence Bradbury, Leadership Development Coordinator
“Relationships are the virus of influence.” So says Steve Saccone in Relational Intelligence: How Leaders can expand their influence by a New Way of Being Smart (Jossey-Bass, 2009). When many of us started out as leaders, we assumed that acquiring a high IQ and equally high grades in school were the major keys to success in life. But assumptions have changed. Having a high IQ does not ensure good leadership or success in a career. We have all observed very gifted and educated leaders bomb, while much lower lights intellectually enjoyed healthy and productive relationships with family, peers, customers, supervisors – anybody. Influence thrives in the context of authentic relationships.
The last twenty years have seen an explosion of resources on the subject of leadership. While intelligence occupies a vital place in the literature (after all, some things have to be known!), it no longer holds first place among success essentials. In fact, studies demonstrate that intellect alone accounts for no more than a quarter of leadership and career success, while emotional intelligence can account for up to 90% of performance effectiveness. This explains why some leaders seemingly go through life on the strength of personal charisma and people-savvy relational skills alone. They know how to connect with people even though they are blissfully unaware or inept regarding other essential factors.
Exploration of the emotional domain is a recent development in leadership studies. And it is proving to be the dominant success indicator. While references were made to “non-intellect” factors back in the 1940,s, serious study only began in earnest with Howard Gardner’s Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (Basic Books,1983). By 1995 Daniel Goleman popularized the concept of emotional intelligence in his book, Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books, 1995). Since then the field has rapidly opened up to embrace (pardon all the acronyms) PQ, RQ, EIQ, ERQ, MQ, SQ, and others. I think that while multiple intelligences have occupied little space in the literature of earlier times, they have nevertheless reckoned into the success and significance observed in good leaders at any point in history.
Definition: What is Emotional Intelligence (EI), or Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EIQ)? While definitions vary from one source to another, the following fairly represents the field: It is a person’s awareness of and ability to manage ones emotions, instincts and impulses. It is also the capacity to be fully present with others, to enter into someone else’s state of mind, to read social clues that indicate what others need in a given moment, and then be able to adjust ones thoughts and actions to that moment.
This amounts to a capacity to take information, then link it with self awareness and apply it to all interactions with others. While many people, even children, exhibit superior emotional intelligence, most of us have to learn the skills. The good news is emotional intelligence can be learned – not so much by sitting in a classroom as by behaving our way into new habits of effectiveness. The most respected and effective Salvation Army leaders today are Doing The Most Good by working on their own brand – sharpening their people skills for the sake of the Kingdom, the mission and the well-being of those they serve and with whom they serve.
EI and the practice of Leadership: Do we all believe that competence on an emotional level is vital to our leadership calling? Do our actions, reactions and interactions reflect a deep appreciation for the value of emotional intelligence? Would those who relate to you and work with or for you, affirm that you are emotionally aware and competent? Leadership boils down to an enterprise of helping others to be and do their best toward the accomplishment of shared mission and mutual goals. The higher my position as a leader, the more critical my EI capacity becomes. One area where this is evident is conflict. If I as a leader am strong in self-awareness I am able to maneuver conflict more effectively because I am able to speak truth with love without having an identity crisis when someone disagrees with me. By showing genuine appreciation and respect for those around me, thanking them for their service during times of stress due to fiscal restraint or other factors, I cultivate loyalty and team spirit. Sometimes it is necessary to exercise fiscal restraints in a business or church. The leadership question is, how do we ensure efficiencies while respecting, valuing, affirming and encouraging people. As a spiritual leader, my level of success and the respect I receive are measured in proportion to the morale and satisfaction my leadership engenders in the group. High emotional competence keeps people focused on accomplishing high quality work. It lowers frustration and conflict levels while it boosts cooperation and motivation as well as worker/volunteer retention. On a practical level, emotional intelligence nurtures deep friendships, attracts followers and becomes a catalyst for the kind of “resonance” that organizations need for sustained health and productivity.
EI and the Issue of Productivity: It is important to approach EI in the best interests of others and the communities to which they belong; whether a business, a family or the Kingdom community of the church. We have all seen businesses and churches beef up their people skills among their constituents for the sake of boosting popularity, sales or attendance. This is unworthy because it devalues people and treats them simply as hired hands, or as instruments of personal and organizational ambition. Morale and productivity sink when people feel unappreciated, their contribution taken for granted, or their accomplishments unfavorably compared with that of others (sales targets and attendance drives are good examples). But when an elevated EI grows out of genuine love for God and people, improved productivity follows as a natural by-product. Jesus said in the parable, “Make a tree healthy and its fruit will be healthy too” (Matthew 12:33). When people feel they are heard, understood and affirmed, they get inspired to give themselves even more of themselves. When “human capital” has been leveraged in an appropriate and pleasing way, people and things run better. As Calvin Miller wrote in The Power of Encouragement (Tyndale Press, 2003, p. x111)) “The world is waiting to be renewed, and we hold the power of renovation”.