Q&A With Ben Dattner, Ph.D. Emotional Intelligence: A Key to Leadership Development

Ben Dattner

Over the past decade, it has become increasingly clear that corporate leaders need more than just a high IQ to succeed -- they also need a high level of emotional intelligence. Last year, Training magazine published a national survey of some 250 corporate managers. While 27% cited the leadership competency of self-awareness -- a key factor in emotional intelligence -- as most important, only 3% said that the leaders of their organizations demonstrate this competency at the highest level.

Ben Dattner, a member of the WJM Associates faculty, is a psychologist, consultant, coach and accredited administrator of the Emotional Competence Inventory (ECI), a multi-rater tool designed to assess emotional intelligence. He received a BA in psychology from Harvard College, and his MA and Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology from New York University, where he is an adjunct professor in the industrial and organizational psychology MA program.


Just what is emotional intelligence?

The term itself was coined in 1990 by two professors, John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey. I think the best definition comes from Daniel Goleman, the psychologist and former science writer for The New York Times, who published a landmark book in 1995 calledEmotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Dr. Goleman says there are basically four components to emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Simply stated, it's awareness and action for yourself and others.

Why are businesses becoming so interested in emotional intelligence?

Companies have come to realize that the only sustainable source of competitive advantage is their people. With the Internet, people all have the same technology, and everybody knows what everybody else is doing. It's very unlikely that one company is going to do something that its competitors aren't going to notice or couldn't copy.

One way to gain an advantage through people is by helping them develop their emotional intelligence, which is much more flexible than IQ. Emotional intelligence can increase over time as we develop and mature. It can also be substantially improved through feedback and coaching.

Emotional intelligence has been shown to be a powerful predictor of who's going to succeed and who isn't. There's a lot of evidence that people with emotional intelligence are more likely to succeed, more likely to be promoted and less likely to derail.

How do you use the Emotional Competence Inventory (ECI)?

The ECI is a robust tool for assessing people. It's a 360-degree online assessment that measures people's strengths and weaknesses across 18 competencies. There are four general patterns of rating for each competency:

  • If you think you're good and other people think you're good, that's a known strength.
  • If you and others agree that you're not so strong, that's a known development need.
  • If they think you're good and you think you're not so good, that's a hidden asset.
  • If you think you're great and they think you're not so great, that's a blind spot.

After someone has completed the ECI, you sit down with them and discuss the results. Then, in the coaching phase, you try to bring everything into alignment. You try to have people understand the perceptions, close the perception gaps, build on strengths, and remedy weaknesses.

Why is emotional intelligence so important to leadership development?

In a rapidly changing, globally networked, multicultural and team-based economy, it is critical that people use emotional intelligence to navigate emerging challenges. It is unlikely that organizations that neglect emotional intelligence will harness the individual or collective potential of their people.

Where emotional intelligence is lacking, people are less likely to understand themselves and their colleagues, clients or customers, less likely to work effectively in teams, and less likely to successfully coach and mentor others. But organizations that invest in developing the emotional intelligence of their people are likely to have lower turnover, higher job satisfaction, less conflict, and increased organizational commitment. The bottom line is that emotional intelligence can have a significant impact on the bottom line.

WJM Faculty Cabinet

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