Emotional intelligence is largely viewed in the business community as a soft skill to make people happy and be nice to each other. This perception is debunked in a recent book, A Leader’s Guide to Solving Challenges with Emotional Intelligence, written by David R. Caruso (a good friend and an associate of mine at Yale) and Lisa T. Rees.
In the introduction they cite an IBM study of 1,500 CEO’s interviewed on the future of leadership development indicating:
“Their number one concern and worry is that today’s leaders are ill equipped to lead in volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous conditions”.
They also note the World Economic Forums position that:
“emotional intelligence is one of the 10 required skills for the future workforce”.
In a Mental Health America/Faas Foundation study called ‘Mind the Workplace’, we found that relationships and trust in most organizations are shockingly dismal. Consider these responses from over 20,000 workers:
Only 17 percent feel that their company always or often appropriately deals with coworkers who are not doing their job.
Only 28 percent feel that all people are held accountable for their work, regardless of their position in the company.
Only 36 percent feel if things get hard, their supervisor will always or often support them.
Only 34 percent trust their team or coworkers will always or often support their work activities.
A whopping 77 percent feel that people are being unfairly recognized while others with better experience or skills don’t get recognized.
Given these statistics, it is small wonder that from the same study 71 percent always, often or sometimes speak poorly about their company to others.
Much of what is out there on emotional intelligence has a disproportionate focus on improving individual wellbeing, self-care, and promoting relax and engage in positive emotions all of the time.
This in my view is why emotional intelligence is viewed as a soft skill.
In their book, Caruso and Rees make it clear that their goal is “not to have you be a happy, upbeat, cheery, positive person all of the time.” They want you to “engage with and grapple with the toughest leadership challenges and to succeed at those challenges.”
Another goal is “not to keep a smile on your face…” but rather “give you the skills, focus and energy so you have the emotional resources to engage with the toughest leadership challenges.”
In the book, pragmatic emotional intelligence blueprints are provided for solving the tough leadership challenges they have identified, which are largely much in line with the ones highlighted in my book From Bully to Bull’s Eye – Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire. They are:
Leading teams in strategic planning and visioning.
Giving feedback to an underperforming employee
Delivering disappointing news to a high achiever
Laying off an unsatisfactory employee
Retaining an under-utilized top-notch employee
Dealing with a dissatisfied team
Leading unproductive meetings
Leading virtual teams
Making an unpopular decision
Dealing with a volatile boss
Dealing with a disengaged boss
Dealing with an unethical boss
Working with an overreaching colleague
Working with a volunteer board of directors
Working with an unmotivated colleague
Working with unsupportive colleagues
Dealing with an unhappy client
Presenting to a skeptical audience
Responding to an angry email
Dealing with a work bully
Dealing with uncertainty and volatility
Delivering unwelcome news
A Leader’s Guide to Solving Challenges with Emotional Intelligence is a must read for everyone in a management and leadership position and become compulsory in B school and executive development curriculum.