October 13, 2021
Have you read an article about emotional intelligence and leadership recently? There’s a strong chance it’s misleading you.
That’s because there’s been serious confusion about how emotional intelligence works, especially among business leaders.
Often, there’s an unstated assumption that emotional intelligence measures the grasp you have on how others feel.
It’s become common to see emotional speeches, sincere apologies, and leadership styles all bathed with the label “Emotionally Intelligent” since they all employ basic human emotions to be effective.
But there’s one problem—having high emotional intelligence is a far more nuanced state of awareness than merely understanding how emotions work.
Daniel Goleman, the guy who literally wrote the book on emotional intelligence, gives emotional intelligence four dimensions:
- Social awareness
- Relationship management
But, as Goleman explains here, those qualities require empathy to cohere. In fact, sans empathy, they can become toxic.
It’s easy to see why, when you think about it.
How do you categorize a leader who’s aware of how others feel, but exploits those emotions to their own ends?
At best, they’re skilled at what the ancient Greeks called Rhetoric, the art of persuasion.
At worst, they’re garden variety psychopaths…
Here are two takeaways for you:
Beware headlines that peddle examples of emotional intelligence. Plenty of publications will try to get your click with articles about emotional intelligence in action. Maybe they’re worthwhile. But maybe they’re using a buzzword to grab your attention.
Develop your empathy along with your charisma. Without empathy, you’ll find yourself manipulating others with little concern for their wellbeing. Not only is it wrong, but it can have disastrous outcomes over the long haul.
And here’s a bonus takeaway, just because I care (see the rhetoric at work?)…
Just because someone speaks to your emotions doesn’t mean they care about you.
In fact, those emotional appeals can be indicators that a bad actor is exploiting you.