The Gatehouse Blog

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership: the magic of sustainable business success

In September 2012, Virginia Hicks and Alison Boothby from Comma Partners brought together 30 heavyweight communication professionals to share their thoughts and experiences around introducing Emotional Intelligence as a part of their leadership communications strategy.

Emotional Intelligence is receiving significant attention at the moment in the field of leadership development and communication, with as many as 85% of the world’s top 500 organisations allegedly claiming it is an essential leadership skill and the single most important factor in predicting success.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your emotions, and those of the people around you. Leaders must have a solid understanding of how their emotions and actions affect the people around them. The better they relate to and work with others, the more successful they are likely to be.

“Despite the high awareness of the importance – if not the value – of Emotional Intelligence it is interesting that we are still not seeing much evidence of it in corporate life” observes Kate Hogben, an independent internal and change communications consultant. One reason for this might be that it is still seen as a ‘soft skill’ or perhaps an inherent rather than an acquired skill, and lacks a body of hard data and evidence to get it to most top tables.

Rebecca Hilliard, formerly the global manager for internal communications at Shell, agrees: “From my experience, it’s about finding the right moment which will depend upon the business situation. When there’s a burning platform and leaders are looking for ‘the thing’ to help them connect with their colleagues, that’s the opportunity to bring it in.”

 EI as an engagement technique

Lisa Cornell-Norman of Teynham Associates is currently leading the engagement piece of a transformation programme at Eurostar.

Having introduced Emotional Intelligence capabilities to several organisations to date she suggests that, “Working it in through the engagement agenda is a good place to start. Leadership teams are already comfortably familiar with the benefits of enhanced employee engagement and Emotional Intelligence, when broken down into component parts, offers a set of capabilities that can be easily understood.”

Daniel Goleman’s published best seller “Emotional Intelligence” has done a great deal to popularise the concept and breaks it down into five easily understood capabilities, and it is this model that Cornell-Norman makes use of in her work:

  • Self-awareness – emotions, strengths and weaknesses, impacts
  • Self regulation – redirecting disruptive emotions and adapting to changing circumstances
  • Social skills – managing people to move in the right direction
  • Empathy – considering other people’s feelings especially when making decisions
  • Motivation – driven to achieve and driving others

Communication impact

So, what does this mean for communicators? For freelance IC consultant Kareen Griffiths, it raises some serious questions: “As communicators our role is evolving. The old days of managing the message are gone. Our roles, now a little blurred, are entwined with colleagues in HR, PR, Marketing and Engagement. And this means our credibility is at stake unless we embrace communication in its entirety, learning more about the psychology behind it along the way. We are too often criticised for being ‘pink and fluffy’ and it’s our job to ensure that we are in tune with how our organisations communicate to retain our creditability with leadership.”

“The role of a senior internal communicator is much more about influencing and coaching their senior teams to be able to really connect with their colleagues across the business. There’s no doubt in my mind that to be a good practitioner today, our own Emotional Intelligence must be very high to start with.”