From an organizational perspective, where does the responsibility lie for promoting a leader with low emotional intelligence? Is it reasonable for an employee to know if they have high, average or low emotional intelligence? How does their level impact their personal leadership style? From my perspective – most leaders or employees don’t have a clue. They have heard of it, yet can’t put into practice what it means. Knowing about something doesn’t mean being proficient at doing something.

Too often we hear the story of the technical expert being promoted into a leadership role with zero people skills. Years ago, we called it the Peter Principle – where organizations select someone for a position based on their performance in the current role. The missing link was translating their skills and abilities into the new role requirements. Taking this extra step puts some logic behind a promotional decision based on potential, not current performance.

When poor selection choices are made sometimes organizations blame the employee. For example, if the person failed miserably at their new role we jump to them not being good enough. The sad truth – they were probably very good – just not in that role.

Leader roles require very different skills and abilities than technical roles. The distinction between these skills is important when moving into a role that manages people. One of the most common requests I receive for executive coaching is to help leaders (new and seasoned) to:

  • Be more approachable
  • Engage others
  • Trust their team
  • Manage their emotions
  • Develop/mend professional relationships

While many of these skills are necessary in technical roles –  they become critical in leader roles. There is no wiggle room. Low emotional intelligence leaders spin their wheels trying to figure out what went wrong without a clear barometer. After all, they don’t know what they don’t know or sense.

How Low Emotional Intelligence Shows Up

I have seen organizations fire leaders who fail to measure up despite the organization pushing them into the role without support. Alternatively, I have seen organizations continue to make excuses for leaders who continue to beat down their staff because they make the numbers. Interestingly, organizations spend inordinate amounts of time trying to fix the aftermath, rarely addressing the root cause. Organizations try to manage low emotional intelligence leaders like other leaders and find it doesn’t work. Unfortunately, when an organization reaches out for help and the situation may be out of control requiring more support than they assume.

How to Use Emotional Intelligence in Organizations Effectively

Ideally, if an organization identifies the skills and abilities of a leader prior to moving into a position there will be some gaps. To aid the new leader, determine the level of development support for success. The organization decides if the investment in this leader is worth their time and resources. Let’s be clear, it is rare to find a leader that could not benefit from development – no matter where they sit within the organization.

There is research to support that higher levels of emotional intelligence can improve organizational performance. So, is it time to emphasize this leadership capability more clearly? There are several ways to use this insight proactively:

  1. To early identify high potential employees moving into leadership roles.
  2. Assess current leadership – ascertain developmental gaps and provide development support.
  3. Rethink poorly placed leaders and develop an aggressive and supportive development plan or find alternative placement within the organization.

In conclusion, I leave you with this thought. Organizations evaluate how leadership deals with their own leader’s development – just another emotional intelligence indicator at work.