I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Steven Stein, author of The EQ Leader: Instilling Passion, Creating Shared Goals, and Building Meaningful Organizations through Emotional Intelligence (Wiley, May 2017), which I reviewed on this site. Dr. Stein’s book discusses the emotional intelligence skills that today’s leaders need, but often lack — and why they’re critical to successful leadership.
The new emphasis on Emotional Intelligence (EI) has begun to replace top-down leadership styles. To what do you attribute this change?
I think there has been a lot of dissatisfaction with traditional top-down leadership. We’ve seen a number of leaders in the corporate world, as well as in politics and entertainment, being brought down due to greed, sexual impropriety, and generally not caring about the people in their organizations or communities. These are all emotional deficits. People today, especially Generation Z and Millennials, are looking for leaders they believe in. We are living in a new age of transparency, and we want leaders who can inspire us.
Let’s talk about your company, Multi-Health System — how does it measure leaders’ emotional quotients (EQ)?
We published the world’s first and most widely used assessments of emotional intelligence. We started with the Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i and EQ-i 2.0), a normed and validated self-report inventory that people can take online. We’ve assessed approximately two million people worldwide. We also publish the world’s first emotional intelligence ability measure, the MSCEIT (Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test). Two of its authors, Jack Mayer and Peter Salovey — Salovey is a social psychologist and currently the President of Yale University — were the ones who coined the term “emotional intelligence.”
The EQ Leader cites compelling evidence that leaders with EI skills positively affect the bottom line. Can you explain this correlation?
Many studies now demonstrate how emotional intelligence affects the bottom line. One study we published examined 186 CEO members of the Young Presidents Organization and similar groups. It found that CEOs of more profitable companies had higher EI factors in the areas of empathy, self-regard, problem solving and reality testing.
We also did a study with the U.S. Air Force. They had about a 50 percent turnover rate among their recruiters, and wanted to increase retention. By profiling their more successful recruiters with the EQ-i, and using the results to measure the next group, we were able to increase the Air Force’s retention rate by 92 percent — which saved them $2.7 million in the first year alone.
How difficult is it to develop EI and interpersonal skills if they don’t come naturally?
It varies. The less natural these skills are for you, the more challenging it can be to develop them. In a recently published study, a financial services company in South Africa was able to significantly improve the emotional intelligence of 30 managers, compared to 30 controls, over a period of 9–12 months. They used the EQ-i as a baseline and outcome, as well as comparing their manager’s performance ratings. The main intervention involved personal coaching: many of these people come from the financial sector, and tend not to be naturals in emotional intelligence.
Describe what you call the “4 Pillars of Successful Leadership.”
We found that the best leaders were distinguished by four pillars: authenticity, coaching, insight, and innovation. Basically, these involve 1) leading authentically to inspire and motivate others, 2) supporting employees’ needs and nurturing development, 3) communicating with purpose, meaning and vision, and 4) fostering ingenuity, imagination and autonomous thinking.
Your study of how leaders can manage across different cultures revealed many interesting findings. How can knowing cultural differences help people working in a global organization, or in countries outside the U.S.?
The research in managing across cultures has found that there are at least three attributes that are significant in business organizations worldwide. Our research into how managers successfully oversee workforces across different cultures found three significant attributes, and possibly more: 1) Decisional: the ability to take action, make decisions and follow through, 2) Interpersonal: the ability to build and maintain relationships, and 3) Personal Resources: being determined or driven to excel and resolve work-related issues.
While these qualities are universal, the way someone implements them may not be. For example, we looked at our worldwide data on assertiveness — an essential part of a Decisional manager. We found cultural differences between managers in Mexico, South Africa and the Philippines, and those in Singapore, Malaysia and Canada. The first group tended to be the most assertive, and the second group was the least assertive. To effectively manage your people, you need to be sensitive to the level of assertiveness in that culture. Also, trainers who work across cultures in multinational organizations should be sensitized to this.
Learn more about the author and The EQ Leader at Dr. Stein’s web site.