The Key to Effective Leadership and Teamwork May be More Heart Than Brain

Effective Leadership

In my model of emotional intelligence, grit falls under self-management, one of four essential leadership skills. The others are self-awareness – which is the basis for managing yourself – and empathy plus social skills.
– Daniel Goleman, “Teach the Key Ingredients for Leadership Success”

Goleman’s Four Essential Leadership Skills:

  1. Self-management
    Grit, determination, focus, resilience – the ability to stay in control of one’s self, to stay on-task, and to maintain focus.
  2. Self-awareness
    Effective self-management depends on self-awareness; you can’t manage what you don’t see.
  3. Empathy
    The ability to see things from another’s perspective
  4. Social Skills
    The ability to interact positively and fluidly with others

EQ and CC – Key to Achieving Balance and Results

People often ask questions about the connections between conversational capacity (CC) and emotional intelligence (EQ). A person who is emotionally intelligent enjoys the ability to monitor and manage his or her own emotional reactions, and to respond competently to the emotional reactions of others. This is a person who is self-aware enough to recognize, in themselves and in others, an emotional impulse before it manifests itself externally as a reaction, and to calmly and self-critically alter the expression to contribute something more fruitful and productive.

Similarly, a person with high conversational capacity has the self-discipline to remain open, balanced, and non-defensive in stressful circumstances. When I say balanced, I mean it in a distinct way: balanced individuals participate in conversations in a manner that is equally candid and curious. Unlike people with low conversational capacity, an individual with high CC can set aside his or her gut reactions to remain tactful, fair, and open-minded when presented with a challenging situation. Maintaining this balance is easier said than done because all too often, especially under stress, powerful emotional reactions – grounded in the fight-or-flight response – overwhelm our ability to be candid, curious, or both.

And therein lies the connection between EQ and CC. In order to remain balanced – both candid and curious – we must develop the ability to monitor and manage the intense instinctual reactions that so easily pull us off center. As Goleman’s leadership skills outline, we must be self-aware enough to see ourselves within a situation (not just be in it), and continuously self-monitor to keep our emotions in-check. Emotional intelligence emphasizes the need to be empathic and to consider others, and conversational capacity provides us with the tools to actually do so.

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They’re Also Key to Effective Teamwork

The relationship between EQ and CC goes deeper: High emotional intelligence is also needed to monitor, and to then respond in a balanced way, to the emotional reactions of others, even when they’re not making it easy. Rather than get defensive when someone lashes out, for instance, an emotionally intelligent person gets curious about what’s triggering his or her strong reaction. Rather than avoid conflict or disagreement, we try to work through it. We lean into difference – not to agree, but to learn. This requires empathy, the ability to adopt the perspective of another to understand where they’re coming from, to see the situation from their point of view. We’re not doing this just to be considerate, but because we know that seeing things from a new perspective can also help us notice things about an issue that we can’t see from our own vantage point. Empathy is thus not only about compassion; it’s also a key element in thinking in more clearly and intelligently.

Work Once, Earn Twice

There is a reciprocal and reinforcing relationship between Conversational Capacity and Emotional Intelligence. Building and strengthening our EQ increases our conversational capacity, and increasing our conversational capacity expands our EQ. They go hand in hand. The benefits are difficult to overstate; any investment made in deepening skills in one area pays off doubly by making it easier to build skills in the other.

Going Further

So the big questions are these: How good are you at balancing candor and curiosity in difficult circumstances? How emotionally intelligent are you? And what can you start doing to build both?

To learn more, check out this short article to see the 14 signs that you have high EQ:

Craig Weber

Known for his impactful work and his engaging delivery, Craig Weber is a sought after speaker, author, and consultant. His pioneering ideas about conversational capacity and adaptive learning are outlined in his bestselling book, Conversational Capacity: The Key To Building Successful Teams That Perform When The Pressure Is On (McGraw-Hill, 2013), his new book Influence in Action: How to Build Your Conversational Capacity, Do Meaningful Work, and Make a Powerful Difference (McGraw-Hill, 2019), and his popular Conversational Capacity eCourse.