Looking for Emotional Intelligence? You will not find it in the Political world

Emotional Intelligence burst onto the scene over 20 years ago and life has never been the same for those of us in the Leadership Development and Talent Development world.  Several have been involved in the pursuit and promotion of intelligence, such as those who first coined the phrase as shown in the excerpt below from a Harvard Business Review article:

The term was coined in 1990 in a research paper by two psychology professors, John D. Mayer of UNH and Peter Salovey of Yale. Some years later, Mayer defined it in HBR this way:

From a scientific (rather than a popular) standpoint, emotional intelligence is the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others’ emotions. It doesn’t necessarily include the qualities (like optimism, initiative, and self-confidence) that some popular definitions ascribe to it.

Daniel Goleman and many others have written much about the value of EI or EQ as it is also known.  Knowing what EI is helps one know more about how to understand the value of the skills involved.  The real challenge I see today is the great lack of EI skills in many areas and this year’s political free-for-all involving candidates from both parties is the most apparent lack of EI I have seen in a long time.

It has become commonplace for candidates in the presidential race to often lose their grasp of their own emotions and the greater challenge I have seen is the lack of understanding how their words and actions have been perceived, rightly or wrongly, by others.  Having witnessed the political process for over 56 years, this has become the biggest circus in my lifetime.  The only thing we are missing is the trapeze show and a few elephants.

While the candidates continue to display this low understanding of EI, the voters in many cases don’t seem to care.  Some of the candidates with the lowest EI understanding seem to be resonating the best with the electorate and it gives me great pause for concern when I see how this might be played out in the private sector by other leaders who are looking for ways to unite and motivate their own followers.

Emotional Intelligence is a valued and needed skill in every sector and I trust that those who lead, as well as those who follow, will take a step back and start to realize just how lacking some leaders are in their display and usage of core EI skills such as managing their own emotions and understanding how their words and actions are viewed by others.

Leaders in all areas, especially leaders in the HR function, know and appreciate the value of EI and seeing colleagues, direct reports or superiors exhibit inappropriate behaviors is something that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible.  When leaders are not challenged when their EI is low, they will take this as validation for their methods.

If we continue to accept and support leaders with low EI skills, I shudder to think where this might take leadership in the coming years.