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Harnessing the Power of Emotional Intelligent Leadership
by Janet C. Macaluso


Within us all, there is a power source. Yet, it isn't easily replenished at the gym or by eating a power bar. This is our Emotional Energy and it is as real as our commitment, resilience, passion, pride and morale. In fact, a recent survey of endocrinologists, nutritionists, and sports medicine specialists revealed a surprising consensus - 70 percent of our total energy is indeed emotional. Leaders take heed: increase productivity power by tapping into this deep well of emotional energy.

The best leaders know this resource intuitively because they possess Emotional Intelligence, (or EQ for Emotional Quotient). They discern feelings in themselves and in others, and use this knowledge to positively impact business outcomes. Intelligence may get you hired, but only 12% - 20% of success can be attributed to IQ. While logic causes us think, emotions cause us act. And the job of leadership is to move, inspire, and influence.

Whether participating in a strategy session or unveiling a new marketing campaign to the troops, high EQ leaders attend to both the business and emotional needs - a subtle but crucial dimension of success. How crucial? Let's look at some recent research on this very subject:

  • A study of 515 senior global executives found the most successful executives had the strongest emotional intelligence. In fact, EQ was a better predictor of leadership success than relevant business, previous academic achievement or IQ.

  • The Center for Creative Leadership conducted a "Derailed Executives," study analyzing rising stars who flamed out prematurely. The primary cause of derailment was "interpersonal deficits," rather than technical abilities.

  • American Express Financial Advisors' attended EQ training and increased sales by 18%. Overall sales in regions where the managers attended the program were 11% greater than sales where sales managers did not attend.

Empathy: The Ultimate Corporate Secret

The "secret" is no secret at all: Emotion is a powerful resource, yet many leaders just don't optimize it. Much communication is transferred nonverbally. Consequently, a critical leadership skill is empathy - the ability to sense and respond to the feelings of others. Why? Well, it's easy to find out what the business issues are, it takes savvy to uncover the personal issues that drive or resist change.

Harvard psychologist Robert Rosenthal developed a test to measure a person's ability to read emotional cues. He showed subjects a film of people expressing feelings such as anger, love, jealousy, and gratitude, and then edited out some nonverbal cues. Viewers had to judge the actor's emotion only through subtle cues, such as facial expression or tone of voice. Those subjects with the highest scores were also the more successful in their business and personal relationships.

All of this may seem touchy-feely, but empathy sets leaders apart from their peers. They use it to form strong relationships, pick up early warning signs, and recognize opportunities to influence. High EQ leaders look around the conference table "emotionally reading" others' perspectives, assessing body language, energy levels, and voice fluctuations. "I'll have to work a little harder on Henry, as he still seems resistant on this."

Less emotionally intelligent leaders focus primarily on the task at hand, unintentionally missing this valuable feed-back. They may occasionally attempt to use empathy since they know intellectually it's important. But merely saying, "Gee, I'm sorry to hear about the death in your family - how's that report coming along?" just doesn't cut it. Low EQ leaders typically ride emotionally rough shod over others completely unaware of doing so and then wonder, "What? Was it something I said?"

Suggestions for Improving Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

Increasing your EQ skills involves deliberate practice. Try these for starters:

  1. Pay attention to body language - notice your own and other's subtle shifts in facial expressions, eye contact, posture, and energy levels.

  2. Immediately improve empathy by listening more than speaking. Listen for tone of voice, intensity, and pace.

  3. Get curious, not furious. Catch yourself as you get frustrated with someone. Reframe negative emotions into curiosity - "hmmm… that makes absolutely no sense to me, what do you see that I must be missing?"

  4. Elicit pride in others. Before a meeting, ask: "What will make you proud of our work today?" Before moving on to the next topic, ask: "Are you proud of our work/decisions/goals?"

  5. Use silence - a small but powerful tool. People typically don't feel comfortable with silence, so they will 'fill the void' and speak up if you create spaces in a conversation.

  6. Observe people in public places, such as in restaurants, trains, or meetings, and try to recognize their feelings. Watch television without the sound to discern the actors' emotions.

  7. Prepare for meetings by spending time imagining how key stakeholders might "feel" about a certain issue, change, or project. Ask yourself: What keeps them up at night? What excites them? Who judges them? This information will help you understand their perspective, potentially averting resistance.

  8. Realize that emotions are contagious. Like a cold, people will 'catch' the dominant person's emotions (either negative or positive) and 'infect' others. Leaders are CEO's: Chief "Example" Officers - are you modeling what you want to see in others?


The Author


Janet Macaluso, Ed.M., MSOD, is a recognized speaker, consultant and writer with 20 years of business experience. She helps leaders and teams meet their strategic business goals through organization development. Janet has held management positions with Delta Airlines and Fidelity Investments, and is writing her first book: “Power, Influence and Politics: Secrets to Making It in Today’s Workplace.”

Many more articles in Emotional Intelligence in The CEO Refresher Archives
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Copyright 2003 by Janet Macaluso. All rights reserved.

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