In Part 1 of this feature, I discussed the link between emotional intelligence (EI), effective leadership and success in life. 

In everyday language, emotional intelligence is referred to as “street smarts” or “common sense”.

Emotional intelligence competencies can be improved through training, and thus provide an excellent means of identifying potential areas for improvement, as well as measuring the effectiveness of individual and organisational development programmes.

A thesis by J. H. Jae, entitled “Emotional intelligence and cognitive ability as predictors of job performance in the banking sector”, indicates that emotional intelligence accounts for 15 to 45 per cent of work success, whereas cognitive intelligence has shown low and less significant correlations with performance in the workplace.

This means that the most intelligent or highly qualified person for a position may not have the emotional make-up to handle the demands and stresses of the job environment.

Leadership styles

Drawing on research of more than 3,000 executives, Dr Daniel Goleman explores which precise leadership behaviours yield positive results.

He outlined six distinct leadership styles, each one springing from different components of emotional intelligence:

  • Commanding leaders demand immediate compliance;
  • Visionary leaders mobilise people toward a vision;
  • Participative leaders create emotional bonds and harmony;
  • Democratic leaders build consensus through participation;
  • Pacesetting leaders expect excellence and self-direction; and
  • Coaching leaders develop people for the future.

Each style has a distinct effect on the working atmosphere of a company, division, or team and, in turn, on its financial performance.

Your leadership style is important. It must truly represent you, fit with the situation, the results you wish to achieve and the people you hope will follow your lead.

In truth, having a particular style is not as essential to being a leader as having a vision of what could exist, being committed to the vision, bringing great energy to realising that vision and having people to support you.

Some people have one style of leadership, which is fine if they can find a situation that requires that style of leadership.

Having said that, the autocratic style of leadership is the least successful. It would be a good idea to develop a more involving style that gives you the benefit of exchange with and commitment from the people around you.

If you have not learned how to work cooperatively with others in ways that allow them to see you as a leader, then learn those skills. If you find yourself dictating direction to people who regularly resist your well-intentioned efforts, then learn more participatory skills.

Without these skills, you are stuck with doing what you have done in the past, and you will not get the desired results.

Flexible leadership involves being able to adapt your leadership style according to the situation and the state of the team, for example, taking charge when a team is being formed but playing the role of a coach when a team is managing itself well.

Leadership qualities being dependent on context is demonstrated in the1949 film Twelve O’Clock High. In the film, as a squadron starts to suffer increasing losses during the war, the leader’s people-oriented approach starts to fail.

Later, he is replaced by a dictatorial bully who turns the squadron round and restores its pride. In a modern setting, such leadership behaviour would often be regarded as unacceptable.

Rise to the challenge

Organisations need leaders to visualise the future, motivate and inspire employees, and adapt to changing needs. Research by global human capital management consulting firm DBM indicates that, with the right leadership development support, including executive coaching, those with leadership potential can be developed into outstanding leaders.

Emotional intelligence competencies are challenging for leaders to develop effectively, yet they often have the most impact. As emotionally intelligent leaders rise through the ranks,  their profiles become more visible to employees and their increased power can have greater impact.

For Singapore’s budding leaders to compete with the world’s best, senior managers need to embrace the latest techniques of human leadership development. The price of not doing so will create plenty of managers, but very few leaders.

Finally, leadership is a journey that requires plenty of time and reflection. It is not something that can be learned during a five-day training course.