In this 1998 Harvard Business Review article, Daniel Goleman made his case that emotional intelligence (EI) was a stronger predictor for leadership success than technical skill or cognitive intelligence alone.
Unfortunately, that same EI could also become a predictor for a person’s success as a manipulator who would destroy a company for personal gain.
Is emotional intelligence good or bad for leaders?
As pointed out by this article from The Atlantic, EI is not always a good thing for leaders.
Without values to guide it, EI can become destructive. Warren Buffett expressed a similar concern:
Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you really want them to be dumb and lazy.
How should leaders respond to weighing emotional intelligence?
I suggest three specific steps.
Get values clarity.
Make sure you know the core values that guide decision-making in your organization. Here’s the real test for a value: how much are you willing to suffer in order to live up to that value?
Train values before you train emotional intelligence.
We might call this ethical intelligence training.
Once you are clear on your values, you can use them to make management decisions. After making decisions based on your values, share those decisions as case studies for how values work in your organization.
When looking for potential leaders, look for both values and EI.
It’s easy to be impressed with a great personality combined with great skills, but don’t stop there. Make sure potential leaders can demonstrate real world examples of how they have made tough decisions based on your company’s values.
In other words, don’t settle for leaders with strong EI. Strive for leaders with EI x 2 (emotional intelligence and ethical intelligence).
It's not enough to have emotional intelligence. Leaders must have ethical intelligence, as well. Click To Tweet
These recommendations are especially important for any leadership development programs that an organization is considering. If we only train the “soft skills” of emotional intelligence without doing the hard work of training for ethical intelligence, we risk super-charging the manipulation skills of unethical leaders.
To address this concern, CLU’s Master of Ethical Leadership program offers solid training for students in both leadership soft skills and ethics.
So, how about you? What is your organization doing to promote both emotional and ethical intelligence?
Photo credit: © Brian Goodman | Dreamstime.com
Good point Dr. Ward !
Ethical values are in my opinion also the core of the teachings of all religions. Ethical intelligence would reflect the level of knowledge about the ethical values and their acceptance and practice in our day-to-day life on earth. Ethical values promote happiness for individuals who practice them and for the society in which they live (which in today’s globally connected world through trade, internet, diversity, etc. also includes the world).
Through dialog between knowledgeable representatives of different religions one can also realize that most ethical values (such as, truth, kindness, charity, justice, humility , etc.) are common among different religions. This realization can lead the way towards mutual respect between followers of different religions, in spite of the political goals of some religious leaders to dominate with claims of superiority for their own faith and allegations of inferiority for other religions.
Thank you for your comments, Manek. You raise a good point about ethical values being found in religious traditions, and I think that is one of the reasons that we do ourselves a disservice to our organizations if we don’t allow some room for the religious beliefs of individuals.
How do you think organizations that are essentially “secular” can allow space for people’s religious beliefs?
I see several possibilities, Dr. Ward.
Secular organizations would need to learn about the common ethical beliefs of religions and conduct their business operations to follow them as much as possible. The “Golden Rule” set of ethical beliefs could be one source that is readily available. Lunch time meetings to learn about ethical beliefs of different religions.
Other requirements from different religions, such as food, religious holidays, could also be learned through a questionnaire, and considered in company policies.
At the government level and international organization level such as the United Nations, a religious advisory group could be set up whose recommendations could be considered in policy making and operations.