Like many areas of scientific study, EI or Emotional Intelligence has its detractors. EI is the capacity of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s or an organizational goal(s). Here we’ll explore some of the common misconceptions about emotional intelligent leader and how these are more based in myth and conjecture, than scientific fact. Let us explore some of these common misconceptions:
Many detractors of EI erroneously assume that emotionally intelligent leaders lack the ability to be assertive. A common inaccurate assumption that EI leaders are ‘wishy washy’ and simply want to placate others. This assumption is patently false. The emotionally intelligent leader seeks to understand both others and himself and has no issue asserting in a positive way – where ever it is required. Being emotionally intelligent doesn’t equate with being a push over or lacking the skill of assertiveness.
Many detractors of Emotional Intelligence claim the EI produces a state of self absorption. This misconception shows a deep misunderstanding of what EI truly entails. The emotional intelligent leader isn’t stuck in her own head when engaging with the world but rather able to understand the need/wants of the world around them and observe (in an unbiased way) the workings of their own experience. By definition, someone who practice EI is the opposite of self absorbed. They are able to observe the self and respectfully connect with the other as equals.
EI Leaders are Born with it
Many criticize proponents of EI because they believe we are ether born with it or not. EI like most skills is one we can learn and improve upon through out life. As most scientists recognize, people are the sum of nature (genes) and nurture (environment), in an interactive system. If we practice the fundamentals of the EI, we are better leaders, but this is born out of conscious effort and practice – not genes.
Lacking Conflict Resolution Skills
Another assumption of the EI leader is ‘too nice’ and thus unwilling to deal with conflict or difficult issues. Leaders with EI skills are quite capable of dealing with conflict because of their ability to listen, connect without bias to the issues at hand and resolve them. EI leaders see conflict as an opportunity to resolve an ongoing issue. They don’t cower in the face of conflict but embrace it and more importantly resolve it.
Emotions Don’t Belong in the Workplace
Many that criticize the science of EI assert that emotions don’t belong in the workplace. They assume that emotions only belong in our interpersonal relationships. They miss that work relationships are interpersonal by their very nature. These detractors of EI leadership fail to understand that successful work relationships are founded upon the same fundamentals as interpersonal ones. Relationships based upon mutual respect, dignity and shared values produce better outcomes. The EI leader is both aware of her emotions and those of the other. They understand how they feel and how to interpret these experiences, this leads to better connections with their coworkers.
Some of the most vocal detractors to the science behind EI leadership fundamentally lack understanding of its science, intention and practice. I’m not among those who assert EI trumps IQ or other skills, but it is a critical intelligence for all of us to foster and develop. Doubtless a leader with emotional intelligence is better than one without it. Emotional intelligence along side other intelligences makes better leaders. They are better at navigating their inner and outer world. They can solve workplace interpersonal (& organizational) conflicts more effectively, build teams that are highly functional and productive and create an environment that encourages innovation. These are but a few of the many strengths of the EI leader. In our next post, we’ll further explore the powerful benefits that EI brings to leadership. So be gone the myths, let’s focus on the facts. EI is a powerful tool among many skills a leader needs to enable business outcomes everyone can be proud of. Please do check out our related posts on Emotional Intelligence for even more details and infographics.