Leadership and EI, The Keys to Driving ROI and Organizational Performance

“Someone can be intelligent and still find success, but that success can be limited by deficits in Emotional Intelligence. High cognitive intellect may result in a person understanding every nuance of an issue; he or she may have an incredible memory and ability to dissect information. But if this person’s interpersonal skills are poor, or they lack empathy, or assertiveness, they may find this acts as a barrier to them reaching their full potential. They may not understand how they come across to others or how they are perceived as a leader.”

—Drew Bird, Principal, Clearpoint EQ

“A person can improve certain EI competencies and further develop skills like active listening and other behaviors. At the end of the day, EI is grounded in behavior, and behavior can be learned and unlearned.”

—Roger Pearman, Founder & CEO, Leadership Performance Systems

Conclusions & Recommendations

Technical skills, financial acumen, industry knowledge, raw cognitive abilities. It would be foolish to propose that these (and other competencies) are not critical to the success of today’s organizational leaders and business as a whole. This research proposes—and confirms—the importance of an additional set of skills that impacts leaders’ effectiveness, an organization’s culture, and ultimately business performance: Emotional Intelligence. These competencies, a set of emotional and social skills, help determine the way people perceive and express themselves: how they develop and maintain social relationships, cope with changes and challenges, and how they use emotional input inside and outside of the workplace. The good news for leadership development professionals is that Emotional Intelligence is not static, but can be cultivated with organizational commitment and investment.

In fact, compared with other more widely used practices, incorporating Emotional Intelligence assessments in an organization is a cost-conscious and efficient way to improve overall leadership development effectiveness. We find that other implementations of EI also have a measurable impact on effective leadership development. Organizations that incorporate Emotional Intelligence in leadership development in two or more ways realize greater effectiveness than do organizations with less EI implementation. This finding is likely a manifestation of Emotional Intelligence impacting the work culture as a whole, helping to produce and maintain a high performance environment that sows the seeds of ongoing success.

It is important to remember that many of the leadership competencies that are in high demand now and in the future are built on a foundation of EI skills. Organizations that target EI in their development programs are addressing a wide array of competencies deemed crucial by leaders and their direct reports. This, in turn, plays a role in the overall success and the organizational performance of a leadership development program—ultimately realized as financial returns. Indeed, in this research we find a link between organizations that use assessments to track or measure Emotional Intelligence and positive revenue growth.

There are specific ways to include EQ within your organization as identified by this
research and data:

  • Make an honest assessment of your organization’s leadership development programs. A quarter of HR practitioners report their organizations are ineffective at leadership development; and half only rate them as “somewhat effective.” Identify what areas of leadership are lacking in your company.
  • Advocate for greater executive support, resources and time devoted to leadership development practices. Our study finds that organizations with a relatively higher proportion of Training & Development dollars devoted to leadership development experience higher revenue growth rates. The bottom line impact is real.
  • Recognize Emotional Intelligence as a legitimate part of the leadership development toolbox. Its overexposure in the popular and trade press notwithstanding, thoughtful implementation of Emotional Intelligence leads to enhanced leadership development effectiveness.

Program elements to consider:

  • Incorporating Emotional intelligence as a topic in Training & Development courses.
  • Holding leaders accountable for improvements in Emotional Intelligence as an objective for leadership/executive coaching.
  • Particular consideration should be given to Emotional Intelligence assessments, as a cost-effective and impactful tool to develop leaders, as well as improve the bottom line.

As the expectations and competencies of leaders continue to shift alongside
market changes, generational differences, and increased communication,
globalization, and the speed of business, methods of developing effective leaders are also transitioning. In the midst of this, organizations and leaders need to reevaluate the role Emotional Intelligence plays in leadership development—and prioritize its implementation to impact business results.

“The environment has changed today; the skills we need to survive and thrive have evolved,” Bob Anderson from 1Hero Sports said. “The derailment of social and emotional skills in the workplace results in the inability to perceive emotion, and negative behavior. The situation demands that leaders, who are above all, educators, step up to the plate and address this new environment—and understanding Emotional Intelligence and developing those skills and competencies is the first step.”