In a culture that values the head over the heart, the individual over the group, and the leader over the follower, there are a lot of leadership concepts that create a paradoxical feeling, an uncomfortable combination of good old fashioned common sense and impossibility. For me, “emotional intelligence” has always been one of those. Psychologist Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence and co-author of Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, is helping bridge the real and ideal with his research. (A volume of his essays from HBR, What Makes a Leader, is scheduled for release soon.)
Here are the key components of emotional intelligence:
Presented this way, the psychological connections between skills and qualities, motivation and effect are obvious. In many ways, this model explains more clearly why leaders fail.
Think about General David Petraeus, for example. What if it wasn’t the “Bathsheba Syndrome” affair that ended his career at the CIA, but mismanagement of the complex social and organizational relationships and a lack of self-awareness that made him miss important cues about the change of work culture from military hierarchies to CIA politics.
In the field and working with the media, he was skilled, by all reports, at emotionally intelligent relationship building. (Some might call it manipulation.) But the scandal, broken open by complaints by Jill Kelley, focusing on hagiographic biographer Paula Broadwell, and resonating through the political circles in Washington, showed a serious failure to build healthy networks and gauge emotional realities of other people around him.
Or consider the power of a leader like the Dalai Lama. He is able to bridge cultural boundaries and create alliances in part because of his considerable emotional intelligence. His focus on “creating happiness” is a powerful message that awakens the heart in his followers and colleagues. Whether his ideas about leadership and compassion can translate broadly into the business world remains to be seen.
These are only two examples of leadership figures I’ve written about a great deal — there are many more examples of good emotional leadership we could gather based on these charts. I connect emotional intelligence to ethical and spiritual (not necessarily religious) leadership, something Goleman often embeds in his blogs and arguments about ecological leadership and the transformational power of emotional intelligence. I admire his vision, and the way he brings it into the world of work and daily life, supporting us in changing the habits and modes of thought (not traits) that hold us back from effective leadership.