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Business Leadership Training: Does Emotional Intelligence Create Great Leaders or Powerful Manipulators?

Business Leadership Training: Goleman’s Idea of Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman challenged traditional definitions of leadership with his landmark article in the Harvard Business Review which added another qualifier: emotional intelligence. While leaders were traditionally defined by a high intellect, an analytical determination, and the ability to generate new and exciting ideas, Goleman posited that great leaders also exhibited “self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill.” Years later, experts in behaviour in the business world are beginning to challenge whether Goleman’s idea of emotional intelligence really produces better leaders.

Does Emotional Intelligence Really Matter?

Goleman’s initial findings were revolutionary, showing that in the highest ranks of a company, emotional intelligence contributed more than technical skill with “nearly 90% of the difference in their profiles . . . attributable to emotional intelligence factors rather than cognitive abilities.” Needless to say, many business professional quickly saw the rewards of developing emotional intelligence in their leaders (and their employees). Yet seventeen years after Goleman’s ideas were applied to business, studies are still showing that leaders in management positions display some of the lowest scores in emotional intelligence. Companies are continuing to promote employees based solely on their skills and talent, rather than their ability to motivate and lead others. The study further explains “Once leaders get promoted they enter an environment that tends to erode their emotional intelligence. They spend less time in meaningful interactions with their staff and lose sight of how their emotional states impact those around them. It’s so easy to get out of touch that leaders’ EQ levels sink further.”

Do Leaders Use Emotional Intelligence for Self Gain?

While some leaders lack emotional intelligence, others are using their skills to manipulate rather than inspire. The Atlantic recently published early findings that showed “emotional intelligence helps people disguise one set of emotions while expressing another for personal gain.” Just because a leader is emotionally intelligent, it does not necessarily follow they will use these skills only for the good of the company (rather than for self advancement).

Developing emotional intelligence can be a powerful leadership tool, but it can also be dangerous if left unchallenged.

Polevault can help your organisation create leaders who embrace the best of emotional intelligence.