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11 Apr 2011

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

I received a question about Emotional Intelligence and Leadership in a comment about Leadership vs. Management: The Difference (Part III):

What are your thoughts on Emotional Intelligence(EI) and whether you feel there is a way to objectively measure EI and if it is a measure of Leadership?

Essentially, EI is a head thing; my work is a heart thing. EI is about being “intelligent” about emotions; it’s not about feeling. If you look at EI’s definition of empathy, this becomes clear:

Ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people.

With intuition, I define empathy as:

Ability to feel what the other person is feeling.

Understand is a “head” term, not a “heart” one. Feel is about the heart not the head. EI helps people read the reactions of other people to understand their emotions. In contrast, a true empath (someone who is empathetic) will tend to feel what the other person is feeling even before needing to see a reaction.

Since EI is learnable and is all about understanding and not feeling, a psychopath could learn to become more emotionally intelligent because he can understand without feeling. Empathy, on the other hand is only developed from the emotional sensitivity given to us at birth. It’s analogous to us only being able to develop our athletic capabilities from our given physical attributes.

As for leadership, EI aids it, but it does not objectively measure it for two reasons. First, other personal attributes contribute to leadership which EI does not measure such as our ability to communicate and influence. Second, EI is not measured objectively. As with any personality assessment tool, EI is dependent upon the assumptions and benchmarks underlying it. Those are subjectively determined by the tools’ creators based upon what they feel will work best.

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