This is post #2 in a multi-post series about EI and leadership taken from my book Beyond Agile. Check out Post #1 first, if you have not seen it already. In this article, we will explore what EI is and why it’s often such a tricky topic to define due to the proliferation of different models with similar-sounding components.
EI - Better Results by Becoming More Effective
Let us start the EI exploration journey with a process we are all familiar with, growing up and becoming independent adults. Stephen Covey talks about a progression of maturity and effectiveness that people go through as they get older.
We start as children, dependent on our parents for food, shelter, and support in life. How effective we are at accomplishing things grows, as we do, and eventually, we need less support. When we become teenagers and young adults, we become less dependent on adults and more independent. We eventually get jobs, move out of our parents’ homes (hopefully), and are more effective at accomplishing things in life than when we were children. Our level of effectiveness increases as we move from dependent to independent.
Covey says this is as far as many people progress. They learn how to be independent and contribute at an individual level. However, they are missing out on a further, more effective and productive stage called interdependent. This is what can be achieved when we partner and work with other people. When we learn how to collaborate and work with others, our personal limitations no longer hold us back. Other people can overcome our shortcomings.
So, if Mary is great at generating innovative ideas but lacks the patience or due diligence to see them through to fruition, she can partner with Dave, who thrives on detail and can transform ideas into completed products. When they can find ways to work together, they are both more effective than when working independently.
The bridge from the state of being dependent to being independent is called maturity. Parents, high schools, and the school of hard knocks move people from dependence to independence. Hopefully, there are several family members who can help with that transition.
The bridge from Independent to Interdependent is emotional intelligence. Learning how to interact, cooperate, and collaborate with others is not emphasized nearly enough. These practical life skills are hidden behind the unappealing label of emotional intelligence. There is much written about the process, but few people think to investigate further, at least at first. Often, family members possess it intuitively, but lack frameworks or words to effectively describe it.
EI - Barriers to Entry
A major barrier to understanding EI is the presence of many different models with overlapping names and ideas. Even when the same people write about emotional intelligence at different times, they create new classifications. So, even if your organization agrees to use, say, Goleman’s model of emotional intelligence, which Goleman model are you using? His 1995 one, or his 1998 one? The confusion and proliferation of models are shown in the table below. Do not bother trying to distinguish between them, just appreciate the complexity and lack of standardization.
One popular model is Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence model, popularized in the book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ. Another is Reuven Bar-On’s EQ-i™ (emotional quotient inventory) model. Depending on which model you are trained in, your idea of what EQ is and how it operates will differ from that of someone trained in the other model.
This creates all kinds of problems for teams trying to apply EI but struggling to understand why other people have slightly different ideas of how things are supposed to operate. It is like trying to use Scrum and XP simultaneously on your project but calling both approaches the same name. Most of the ideas align, but there is sufficient divergence to cause confusion. Calling them both EQ just makes the problem worse.
Interestingly, both Goleman and Bar-On quote the same original research in the development of their models and that is where we will start: Understanding what EI is and how we can improve ours to better lead teams.
Another issue with EI is that it uses similar-sounding terms to describe different ideas. To the uninitiated, terms like "interpersonal" and "intrapersonal" sound alike. Also, concepts such as empathy and self-actualization might seem intangible and vague when they actually comprise simple ideas that are easy to adopt.
To help make EI more approachable and accessible, in this series we will break it down, show how all the pieces fit together, and explain it in plain English that even the most literal person can follow. So, stay tuned for more.
To read more about EI and its relationship to effective leadership lookout for the remaining posts in this series, or get the book Beyond Agile for the complete picture and supporting detail.