Emotional Intelligence: The Critical Leadership Skill

Jeff Bezos of Amazon is known to be obsessed with getting into the hearts and minds of Amazon customers and his long-term perspective on relationships (and Business strategy) are legendary.Howard Schultz of Starbucks is well known to love the company and its people. Steve Jobs’ biographer attributed some of Jobs’ success in developing creative and popular products to his ability to identify,analyse and control emotions. “Jobs could size people up,understand their inner thoughts,cajole them,intimidate them,target their deepest vulnerabilities and delight them at will.He knew intuitively how to create products that pleased,interfaces that were friendly and marketing messages that were enticing”(Issacson,2011) .This suggests that successful leaders differ from their competitors not in traditional intelligence but just that they understood better how people feel and leveraged this understanding in developing products and culture that appealed more to customers and employees.

The most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way, they all have high degree of Emotional Intelligence.It is not that IQ or technical skills are irrelevant.They do matter as the entry level requirement but decades of research have shown that EI is what makes a successful and a great leader.A study looked at the successes and failures of 11 U.S. presidents and evaluated them on six qualities: communication, organization, political skill, vision,cognitive style, and emotional intelligence. The key quality that differentiated the successful from the unsuccessful was emotional intelligence. International search firm Egon Zehnder International analyzed 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. Recent HBR article reported on the strong link between empathetic leaders and financial performance. EI affects how people behave,navigate social complexities and make personal decisions to achieve positive results.Presence of EQ is known to help relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathise with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Mayer and Salovey firstly coined the term Emotional Intelligence in 1990 and a decade later Daniel Goleman established its importance in business leadership. The Harvard Business Review defines EI as an individual’s ability to accurately recognize, understand and manage their own emotions as well as that of others. EI is made up of four core skills Self-awareness., self-management,social awareness and relationship management. Self-awareness is the ability to be aware of one’s emotions and manage behavior and tendencies accordingly.Self-Management is the ability to use self-awareness to stay flexible and positively direct one’s behavior.Instead of reacting to every feeling, one waits for the emotion to pass so that one can respond reasonably instead of taking impulsive decisions. Social Awareness is the ability to accurately pick up and understand emotions in others. As a result, one takes people’s emotions into consideration while choosing the right words and actions.Relationship Management is the ability to use self and social awareness to manage interactions successfully.

Why Emotional Intelligence is Indispensable for Leaders?

Emotional Intelligence is a key determinant of effective leadership. High level of EI enables a leader to perceive accurately, understand, and appraise others’ emotions and better respond flexibly to changes in their social environments and build supportive networks (Salovey et al 1999). Leaders high on Emotional Intelligence are successful because

• They are able to comprehend the effect of their feelings and emotions and make sound, objective decisions accordingly.
• They are able to listen to what people are saying without being judgmental.
• They are able to make personal connect with their people.
• They are excellent communicators because they know what messages will connect with others and how to express them.
• They are able to anticipate and respond to others’ sentiments and reactions and develop a strategy to keep them grounded.

A leader lacking in emotional intelligence is not able to effectively gauge the needs, wants and expectations of those they lead. Such leaders react from their emotions without filtering them creating mistrust amongst their staff and seriously jeopardize their working relationship.On the other hand an emotionally savvy and intelligent leader is also able to build stronger teams by strategically utilizing the emotional diversity of their team members leading to high performance and workplace satisfaction.

Conclusion – Emotional intelligence is the foundation for a host of critical skills, is the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence. World economic forum has also listed it as one of the top skills required in 2020.In future with the advent of Artificial intelligence a lot of jobs are going to disappear, but the thing that we will always have that is more important is emotional intelligence.

Enhancing Workplace Learning: Role of Coaching and Mentoring

Swiss Re, a Zurich-based global re-insurance firm achieved an impressive turnaround moving from a loss of $ 663 million in 2008 to a net income of $4.2 billion in 2012. By 2015 the company aims to generate 20-25 per cent revenues from high growth markets. This requires talented people with right skills and languages as well as agility and passion to perform. In response to this, the company has embraced the 70-20-10 learning and development model to support the targeted business growth. In this model, 70 per cent is geared to learning on the job through rotations and stretch assignments, 20 per cent is focused on learning from coaching and mentoring and 10 per cent is invested in formal training methods such as seminars and e-training. Thus the company is using a range of means to strengthen continuous learning and development with strategic investment and focus on workplace learning.

Today, organisations are working in an environment that is increasingly disrupted by consumers, technology and regulatory shifts. In such a scenario the traditional classroom model of learning is doomed. As a result, organisations are exploring new approaches for employee development that are not tied to the formal structured methods around the classes, courses and curricula model. In part this interest has been driven by economic consideration. Pressures to lower training costs and reduce budgets for travel have been a major factor. But this focus is also driven by the realization that a majority of adult learning occurs not through formal learning but through experience, practice, conversations and reflection in the workplace. Added to this is the emerging appreciation of the important role the context plays in learning. Focus on workplace learning has not been confined to any particular business sector or to specific group of employees but is being adopted across wide range of industries, agencies and government departments.

Rationale for workplace learning

The publication of research and survey data over the past decade indicates that workplace and informal learning offer an effective and efficient solutions to improved workplace performance. People learn 70 per cent of what they know about their jobs informally (Loewensteinn and Spletzer,1996). This has been validated in the body of research in the ensuing years. Capital Works study reports that approximately 75 per cent of the skills employee use on the job were learned informally through discussions with co workers, self study, mentoring by managers and similar methods. Casebow and Ferguson (2010) found that most frequent and effective approaches to learning used were informal chats with colleagues (80 per cent) and on the job instruction from managers and colleagues (45 per cent). Exact percentages may vary from study to study but it indicates the importance of workplace learning . Some of the most critical skills to workplace success, communication, collaboration, teamwork and even technical skills, are cultivated through invaluable and ongoing informal workplace learning: mentoring, coaching, peer reviews and job shadowing.

Coaching and mentoring

Workplace coaching is a collaborative, solution-focused, result-oriented and systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of work performance and the selfdirected learning and personal growth of individual (Greene & Grant, 2003). Mentoring is an interactive process occurring between individuals of differing levels of experience and expertise which incorporates interpersonal or psycho-social development, career and/or educational development, and socialisation functions into the relationship (Carmin, 1988). Broadly speaking, coaching supports individuals and teams in building skills that increase performance while mentoring is primarily about developing capability and potential. (CIPD,2009). Coaching has a short term focus vis-a- vis mentoring which focuses on long term development.

Most companies position coaching as an investment in high-performers. Individual coaching often focuses on the top layers of the firm. Team coaching is offered using experiential learning such as business simulations and team exercises. Mentoring is offered to emerging talents as a relationship outside the regular reporting line that helps them develop and move successfully through times of change and transition. A more experienced person is matched with another less experienced one and acts as a listener and guide in questions of business and personal development. Interaction with senior managers helps develop a more sophisticated and strategic perspective on the firm and its direction, values and ways of working (Day 2001). Coaching and mentoring help accelerate learning to create impact at the individual, group and business level as they are geared to people and teams with significant involvement in organisational change process (Vera&Crossan,2004).

UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel Management reports that 51 per cent of companies (sample of 500) ‘consider coaching as a key part of learning development’ and ‘crucial to their strategy’, with 90 per cent reporting that they use coaching. More recent research in 2011 by Qa Research found that 80 per cent of organisations surveyed had used or are now using coaching. According to Toyota’s philosophy, the responsibility to develop people falls squarely on the line manager, not on the HR department or the trainer in the classroom. The next generation is developed through coaching of daily work. Employees are given challenging assignments by managers. The development lies in the stretch between their current ability and the learning they need to go through to complete the assignment successfully. In addition to defining the right stretch to each member, the manager must also coach and support the member throughout the assignment to help him or her succeed, all the while leaving enough room to think, allowing mistakes and using each one as a stepping stone to development.

Companies like Smithkline Beecham, Cadbury, Hewlett Packard, Mckinsey & Co, Infosys to name a few are using mentoring to develop their employees from initial stage Mariott International and Bank of America have formal mentoring programmes. Here, more senior professionals and mangers team up with less experienced protegees with the aim of assisting the protegee to improve their performance and career progress. The accounting firm KPMG made ‘online mentoring program’ part of its employer of choice initiative . Nestlé has launched several mentoring schemes at different levels in the organisation. Credit risk company Experian has since 2008 been running a global talent development forum and internal mentoring initiative the Experian Business Network for its high potential and diverse emerging talent.

Benefits of coaching and mentoring

Coaching and mentoring help employees to

► To adjust to the culture in an organization: The Coach/Mentor can provide the new worker with information on the corporate culture, organizational structure and procedures that will help the younger professional settle into his role in the business.
► Help in employee growth and development: Coaching and mentoring programmes provide the mentee with real-world knowledge that bridges the gap between educational theory and actual business practices.
► Those serving as coaches and mentors within an organization gain personal and professional satisfaction by sharing their expertise with other employees.
► A supportive atmosphere can improve employee morale and loyalty, thereby helping to reduce turnover and boost productivity.
► Companies can align the goals of the business with a mentoring programme to gain a competitive edge.


Coaching and mentoring, whether formal or informal, provide a simple and cost-effective way to enhance enterprise learning and provide direct and specific learning and development to employees. They help employees improve their essential skills, reinforce strong relationships among employees, support a learning culture in the workplace, and increase productivity.