According to the Centre for Creative Leadership the primary reason for career derailment amongst top executives is lack of Emotional Intelligence (EI).

Decades of research has also revealed that EI is the reason why people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70% of the time. Moreover, studies of 500 organisations worldwide have indicated that people who score the highest in EI measures are more likely to be star performers and rise to the top of their organisation.

“But Thomas,” I hear you cry, “why I have spent all those years learning and honing my technical skills?”

And of course the answer is that, beyond a certain level in almost all organisations, technical ability needs to be augmented by leadership, stakeholder and change management skills. Managing relationships and leading people through change require a tact that transcends the technical and this is where emotional intelligence keeps us on the rails.

But don’t get me wrong. Emotional Intelligence is in itself not a panacea.

The more pragmatic and insightful explanation comes from Professor David Caruso, Psychologist and Assistant Dean of Yale University who asserts that “EI is not the opposite of intelligence, nor is it the triumph of heart over head. In fact it’s the intersection of both.” That place in your head where you have an internal dialogue between your emotional and rational brains. Remember the last time you had a knee-jerk, emotive reaction (otherwise known as a Limbic Hijack) but then calmed yourself down with sensible reassurance. That was your rational brain talking to your emotional brain. But conversely what about that time you spoke down to someone and shattered their confidence if not their aspirations with one swipe of your tongue? You dispensed instruction or opinion from your rational brain without once connecting to your emotional brain. All head. No heart. Job done but you left carnage in your wake (and to this day you may not know the damage done).

How then, might we develop our Emotional Intelligence? Psychologist Daniel Goleman who popularised EI with his seminal book called “Emotional Intelligence” identified five key elements: Self-awarenessSelf-regulationSocial SkillsEmpathy; and Motivation. I’ll explore more of these components in future articles but in the meantime here’s an exercise to nurture your Emotional Intelligence…

Think of someone who’s had a significantly positive impact on your life and/or work. Perhaps this person was a colleague, friend or relative? You didn’t recognise them at the time as your confidant, coach or mentor but that’s exactly what they were; always looking out for you; they challenged you but you knew that they had your best interests at heart; they stretched you but you knew that they believed in you; they encouraged and enabled you because they wanted to bring out the very best in you. Equally you wanted to exceed their expectations because you trusted and respected them.

Would it not be fair to conclude that the person you are thinking of has (or had) high emotional intelligence?

So here’s the point: if they made you feel that way; if they empowered you in such a way that the memory is ingrained in every corner of your brain and being, wouldn’t you want to make others feel the same way too?

Don’t derail your business or career aspirations by neglecting or dismissing Emotional Intelligence as a soft skill that has no place alongside your technical ability.

Author: Thomas Chalmers