Imagine your four-year-old self in a room with an adult who offers you a marshmallow. As you reach for the sweet, she says if you wait while she runs an errand, you can have two when she returns. She departs, and leaves behind the marshmallow. Do you weaken, or hold out for double the treat? Psychologists would have us believe that the children who sit tight are showing early signs of high achievement in later life. They say the ability to delay gratification is a master skill; a triumph of reason over impulse. Some claim such self-control is one of the five elements of superior emotional intelligence, a main ingredient of leadership.
Colloquially known as EI, emotional intelligence is said to act as a counterbalance to intellectual intelligence. We measure each in the form of a quotient; intellectual intelligence as IQ and emotional intelligence as EQ. Modern leadership theory holds that one has infinitely more power than the other. More on this later, but here is a clue: IQ gets you hired, EQ gets you promoted.
Read more about IT leaders in CIO Australia’s Management category.
The CIO role has never been a popularity contest. It requires sharp management skills, the ability to make tough decisions, and personal resilience. Many CIOs must make the psychological transformation from individual contributor to leader. In fulfilling their role, CIOs need to manage their peers, their teams, and their CEOs. They must balance tactical management with strategic leadership, know how and when to use and respond to formal authority, and build meaningful internal and external relationships.
Who would have thought that the secret to success in all these tasks — and many more — was first learning how to know and manage oneself?
The smart heart
EQ and IQ might be the Yin and Yang of leadership, but there are many other factors in play. The core of leadership comprises multiple intelligences — cognitive, spiritual, moral, behavioural, and emotional.
Cognitive intelligence is the ability to understand information, imagine possibilities, use intuition, solve problems and make decisions. Spiritual intelligence is the ability to understand that human beings have a need for meaning, value and a sense of worth in what they do. Moral intelligence is the ability to differentiate right from wrong according to universal principles. Behavioural intelligence is the ability to act appropriately according to different situations.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand the needs and feelings of oneself and other people, manage one’s feelings, and respond to others in appropriate ways. Former BP CEO Tony “I want my life back” Hayward lacked EI at a crucial moment during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Today, EI is being hailed in some quarters as one of the greatest breakthroughs in management and leadership theory of all time. Others deride it as pop psychology and warn against the cottage industry of self-described EI consultants.
However, research by the respected Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) in the United States found that the primary causes of executive derailment, like Hayward, involve deficiencies in emotional competence. Each year CCL serves more than 20,000 individuals and 2000 organisations, including more than 80 of the Fortune 100 companies. It says the three main reasons for failure are difficulty in handling change, inability to work well in a team, and poor interpersonal relations.
International search firm Egon Zehnder International analysed 515 senior executives and discovered that those who were strongest in emotional intelligence were more likely to succeed than those strongest in either IQ or relevant previous experience.