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Published: October 10, 2002

 
 

Best Business Books 2002: Management

Emotional Intelligence
The distinction between management and leadership and their different logics has also been highlighted by the work of Daniel Goleman and his colleagues, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, describing emotional intelligence. With his concept of emotional intelligence, Goleman has done for leadership what Michael Hammer with his concept of reengineering did for business process improvement. They have both packaged and branded an existing set of ideas and techniques and made them accessible to a wider audience.

In Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence (Harvard Business School Press, 2002), Goleman’s third book on the subject, he introduces more evidence for the power and leverage of emotional intelligence (EI) to produce high performance when compared with conventional cognitive abilities (IQ) and technical expertise. Once individuals are over a threshold IQ level (it takes a minimum IQ of 110-120 to get an MBA), EI capabilities seem to account for 80 percent to 90 percent of the differences between them in their effectiveness as leaders. To be an effective leader, it seems that the more EI skills (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management) you have, the better.

Goleman argues that emotionally intelligent leadership can produce organizational climates conducive to high performance because moods are contagious — we pick up our feelings, upbeat or sad, excited or apathetic, from those around us and then spread them to others. So-called resonant leaders, who are attuned to people’s feelings, can sense and respond to these moods, acting as catalysts to turn vicious emotional dynamics into virtuous ones. Such leaders have resonant styles Goleman describes as affiliative, blending, coaching, and democratic. Dissonant leaders, on the other hand, cannot respond because they are insensitive to whatever feedback they may be getting. Indeed, they may not be getting any feedback at all. For although their dissonant leadership styles — which Goleman classifies as commanding and pacesetting — have their uses at times in every organization, they inhibit feedback when used as default leadership styles.

The author describes this vicious feedback-reducing dynamic at the top of organizations as the CEO disease. Too often senior managers end up in an information vacuum, where important information is withheld from them, either for fear of their wrath or in deference to an organizational culture committed to accentuating the positive. Clearly this disease was endemic in the upper echelons of Enron.

Goleman’s recommendations for dealing with the perceived dearth of emotional intelligence are pitched at both the individual and the organizational level. Unlike analytical techniques (such as reengineering), EI competencies cannot be acquired conceptually; they can be developed only through well-structured experiences. The author suggests tailored learning agendas to include extended practice and constant feedback. This requires considerable commitment on the part of the individual to close the perceived gap between his or her ideal self and actual self. It also demands a willingness to be introspective — a skill that is often in short supply in the executive suite. Moreover, the concept of practice, while familiar to athletes, may seem strange to many managers, who are used to spending nearly all of their time performing.

Searching for Bedrock
Many management writers would agree with Schon that the important management problems lie in the swamp, but there is disagreement about what lies beneath it: Is there bedrock, or is there mud all the way down? If there is bedrock, then there is a real attraction to conceptual structures built on such foundations. Like those on the high ground, they would promise a singular rationality that can appeal to “hard” disciplines like economics, with its attribution of self-interest to human action.

 
 
 
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