Emotional Intelligence: The Secret to Exceptional Leadership & Performance

Mar 20, 2018

When asked which do you love, cats or dogs, what do you say?

  1. I love dogs
  2. I love cats
  3. I love them both!

Several studies and surveys have been conducted on whether people are dog or cat people. You can quiz yourself on a dozen websites most of which are dreamt up by people who have nothing else to do.

Some studies show that dog people are extroverted and wag their phantom tails, while cat people are introverted and may show their fangs if uncomfortable.

Most studies do show that all those who answer such surveys are generally more friendly and open. Somehow confirming they ‘generally’ like animals (and therefore answer such surveys) means they are easier to deal with.

Are they?

Would your response to animals, specifically cats or dogs, indicate how you would behave with people? Does animal emotional intelligence equal human emotional intelligence?

What is Emotional Intelligence (EI)? Is it about the ability to express and receive emotions? Is a person who is transparent with emotional responses emotionally intelligent?

Let us look to some gurus like Daniel Goleman for answers. Goleman’s 2×2 matrix can be represented more simply this way:

Intrapersonal Emotional Intelligence

  • Awareness of emotions
    • Are you aware of your emotions?
    • Do you realize you are angry when you are?
    • Better still, are you are aware before you become angry based on body awareness?
    • Do you realize that others can read you through your emotions?
    • Does that serve You?
  • Managing emotions once you are aware
    • If you are aware of your emotional state can you change it?
    • If you become aware you are about to get angry can you control the anger?
    • Do your emotions control you or can you control them?
    • Would managing your emotions serve you?

Management of emotions is only possible when you are aware of your emotions. Unlike thoughts, which people cannot read, emotions can be read. Thoughts can be manipulated more easily to mislead people than emotions. Emotions do not lie, generally speaking.

Tests such as the Marshmallow tests of Walter Mischel can provide early indications of one’s ability to manage one’s emotional state – in this case impulsive behavior, leading to emotional stability. These then can be correlated to happiness and success in work and life situations.

Interpersonal Emotional Intelligence

  • Awareness of others’ emotions
    • Can you read emotions of others?
    • Does another person being emotional upset you?
    • Would you walk away or distance yourself if another person cries while sharing something with you?
  • Supporting others’ emotional states
    • Can you empathize and out yourself in another’s emotional state?
    • Can you do this without being emotionally affected?
    • Do you engage with others in a caring way?

Work Life Situations

It is good to differentiate between sympathy, which is about an expression of caring, often as a social etiquette, and empathy, which is about really caring and possibly acting on it to benefit others. Sympathy is an empty ritual, which provides the giver a feeling of satisfaction without any value to receiver. Empathy offers hope and help to the receiver.

It is also good to differentiate between sociability, which is about being comfortable with groups of people networking, and interpersonal sensitivity, which is about interacting one of one with a genuine desire to help the other. Sociability is good to collect business cards and develop contacts for business, and is often useless to follow through to close a deal using interpersonal sensitivity.

Interpersonal sensitivity and empathy are the foundations for emotionally intelligent engagement in work and life. Organizations spend large sums of money in social rituals of engagement that do not result in empathy and interpersonal engagement. These social rituals through surveys and forced interactive session programs have not evidenced enhanced performance.

The change needs to happen at the top. Often, the top wants to change everyone else except itself. Engagement and alignment to performance need to be built into leadership development efforts

In future blogs we shall discuss how coaching and coaching based cultural change leadership development practices can help enhance organizational emotional intelligence.

Most organizations are today aware that emotional intelligence is key leadership attribute, as important as cognitive intelligence. They also realize that employee engagement aligning with corporate value systems needs to be far better to motivate performance.

Corporations spend huge amounts in training people in engagement through exercises, which are rituals with no spirit behind them. Executives manipulate these exercises and in-house surveys to measure their effectiveness in several companies I have worked with.

The change needs to happen at the top. Often, the top wants to change everyone else except itself.

If you are a senior executive leader:

  • Get yourself coached to be more self aware and aware of others, in order to manage yourself and others better.
  • Create a cultural change leading to emotional safety in your organization, starting with yourself.
Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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