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Emotional Intelligence (EI) Isn’t Enough for Leaders Today
February 20, 2020


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: 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).

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?