Balancing emotional and rational intelligence at a leadership level
The debate on the effectiveness, indeed, on the very existence of emotional intelligence, involves a lot of scholars and is decisive on how to set up a correct coaching path, in particular for C-level and Executive managers. Today I want to offer you the thoughts of Professor Edwin A. Locke ( Dean's Professor Emeritus of Leadership and Motivation at the RH Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park ).
For the few who don't know him, Professor Locke is the father of the goal setting theory . This scholar has highlighted that presumed emotional intelligence, to begin with, does not guarantee any better behavior towards others, which cannot be adopted by a person with "simple" intelligence. Furthermore, Professor Locke points out that at the basis of emotional intelligence there is a gross misunderstanding between intelligence and attention.
The process of focusing on one's own behaviors is only a theme relating to where we are channeling our observation, which can be equally directed towards the external world as the internal one (perceiving ego). So, to read and understand other people's emotions it is enough to pay attention to others. It is all dramatically very simple.
Then there is the theme of the subtle distinction of emotions. An intelligent person can distinguish, for example, between jealousy and envy, as it has developed a sophisticated system of semantic and conceptual identification between terms used by the mass in an indistinct way. For someone else the values may be reversed. This would open the great theme of the conceptual standardization of the terms on which and with which emotional intelligence is nourished. If we tried to transpose the theme into a numerical field, it would mean disagreeing on the numerical value of the single digits, if I know what I mean.
One of the key conditions for a formal system (any type of language) to work is that it is logically unique and universally recognized. Professor Locke went further in his critique of the idea of different intelligences. He glimpsed, for example in Howard Gardner's operation, a socio-political goal. In fact, the idea that there are different intelligences would destroy the very idea of intelligence, in favor of those who, not finding themselves in the traditional canons of the concept of intelligence, could always appeal to another intelligence more congenial to him. In short, says Locke, it is an attempt to discredit "traditional" intelligence in favor of a distribution of different, more "democratic" intelligences. The idea is that we are all intelligent, each with its own specific intelligence, among the eight identified by Gardner.
Another question is that relating to our instinctive and emotional reactions which are the expression of our subconscious and, therefore, escape any intelligent control. Above all, they cannot be elevated to instruments of evaluation and judgment of external reality. We return to the conceptual misunderstanding of terms. Emotions may resemble each other, but in fact they belong to our deepest, personal, unique and unrepeatable psychological nature and are the result of successive stratifications that do not allow us to "intelligently" unravel our inner "feeling" and, much less, that of the others.
Feeling in tune with others can, at best, be a sensation, but never a logically demonstrable state. We cannot reason with emotions, but about emotions. In 2002 Goleman, together with Boyatzis and McKee, publishes unique and unrepeatable psychological nature and are the result of successive stratifications that do not allow us to “intelligently” unravel our inner “feeling” and, much less, that of others. Feeling in tune with others can, at best, be a sensation, but never a logically demonstrable state. We cannot reason with emotions, but about emotions.
In 2002 Goleman, together with Boyatzis and McKee, publishes unique and unrepeatable psychological nature and are the result of successive stratifications that do not allow us to “intelligently” unravel our inner “feeling” and, much less, that of others. Feeling in tune with others can, at best, be a sensation, but never a logically demonstrable state. We cannot reason with emotions, but about emotions. In 2002 Goleman, together with Boyatzis and McKee, publishes Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence ( Leading with Emotional Intelligence ), with the aim of extending the area of influence of emotional intelligence theory to leadership.
The book revolves around the usual idea that emotional intelligence is the basis of everything, including leadership. Primary leadership would depend on how well the leaders are able to create resonance , i.e. an emotional impact in their team that constitutes a reservoir of positivity). Therefore, the team does not unite around arguments and logic, but takes shape only based on the emotional climate that the leader has been able to create. The book cites a number of neurological and research studies on the psychological origin of leadership, all bent to the demands of emotional intelligence. According to Goleman and the others, the "real" leader has the "typical"
Characteristics of emotional intelligence and knows how to manage its specific skills, which are:
- An objective self-assessment of oneself
- Confidence and self-esteem
- Moral caliber (integrity, etc.)
- Adaptability and flexibility
- Initiative and self-efficacy
- Organizational capacity and awareness
- Customer service
- Use of persuasion tactics
- Development of the skills of its collaborators
- Starting the change
- Conflict management
- Team building
- Use of humor
To these "few" characteristics (exclusive of emotional intelligence?) Are added the "typical" leadership styles (according to Goleman) always of emotional intelligence:
- Be visionaries
- Having the ability to coach
- Be aggregators ( affiliative )
- Be democratic
- Being pioneers and precursors ( pacesetting)
As Professor Locke rightly points out, it is not clear what is not part of emotional intelligence. Any minimally common sense activity would appear to belong to the domain of emotional intelligence. Obviously, there is no rational argument to support this theory (of course, otherwise what emotional intelligence it would be!).
Yet, from Goleman's all-encompassing list one fundamental activity is missing: understanding! Goleman skips all aspects of the intellectual characteristics of leadership. It would seem to ignore the fact that the leaders of profit-oriented companies must turn their attention not only to their own interior, but also to the external environment, the one in which they compete. Teamwork, to which leaders are required, it must materialize in activities that concern the success of the organization and not the realization of self-referential “style” objectives.
There is a clear confusion between authentic objectives and the methods of obtaining them, transforming the methods into objectives. In this way, the "emotional" questions around the best leadership model exclude issues and questions such as:
- In which direction should the company go?
- What role should the various company functions play?
- Is a divisional or functional organization preferable?
- How does business strategy fit into the larger picture of the business vision?
- How can the different business processes be best integrated?
- How does the growth strategy fit in with the integration of technological advances in the company?
- How to define or redefine your competitive advantage?
- How to improve your cash flow?
- How to reduce production inefficiencies?
- How to increase profits?
- How can the profit analysis be traced back to product lines and / or distribution lines?
- How to plan strategic investments in research and development?
- How to rationalize logistics as much as possible?
- How to establish business priorities?
- How to reconcile short-term priorities with medium-long ones?
- What model should be adopted to judge the best talent being hired?
- How to enhance the best company resources?
- How to retain them?
- How to define and disseminate the company's core values ?
None of these topics, however not exhaustive, have explicit citizenship in the "emotional world", yet they are issues that guarantee the leader and the members of his team access to the major management issues, for which intelligence is essential . Each of the above points can be exploded into a series of sub-themes that encompass increasing levels of complication and difficulty.
Does it make sense to imagine a leader totally focused on his empathic growth and not on the analysis of his intellectual abilities? But, above all, why must the two things be experienced as different and belonging to two different intelligences (perhaps among the eight proposed by Gardner)? Our guide is and remains the reason. We can be perfectly analytical and, at the same time, take care to obtain the consent of others in full respect of their sensitivities.
We can focus on the priorities that the corporate mission imposes on us without giving up on promoting a creative and stimulating environment. Nobody wants a cold and aseptically rational automaton as a leader, also because he would be a bad leader. It is from the measured emerging alchemy between rationality and emotion that a leader fulfills his role.
Leadership is expressed as the ability to control and direct one's energies, through a conscious use of one's reason, relating to the proactive drive of the members of one's team.