As organizations seek ways to help their people develop their leadership competencies, they often discover that developing Emotional Intelligence skills provides a core of foundational skills that complements and supports other values-based programs. In today’s competitive business environment leadership is more important than ever. And organizations have embraced the approach of identifying and fostering leadership competencies as a means of gaining competitive advantage.

Leadership competencies are a way to behaviorally define actions that will produce desired organizational results. These behaviors must be both aligned with and designed to build the organization’s culture (Ulrich, Intagliata, and Smallwood, Human Resources Planning, Winter, 2000, Vol. 23.4, pp. 12-23). While leadership in today’s business world matters more than ever and more resources are allocated toward seeking ways to develop leadership competencies, the quality of leadership is still a concern.

When identifying leadership competencies, organizations typically identify a number of competencies as sets or clusters of behaviors that are important to effectively leading the business. With any developmental experience, the organization likes to see their leaders improve in as many competencies as possible. Emotional Intelligence skill-building offers significant leverage and value when building leadership competencies.

Emotional Intelligence has been defined in many ways. Our definition is simple. It is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge from your emotions and the emotions of others in order to make good decisions about what to say or do, or NOT say or do. There are a variety of EI models, each with a unique set of competencies. However, despite the variance, the competencies relate closely to leadership competencies. The model we use contains five Emotional Intelligence competencies: Emotional Self-Awareness, Emotional Self-Regulations, Emotional Self-Motivation, Empathy and Nurture Relationships. The first three are intra-personal (internal) and the last two are inter-personal (external or occurring between us and other people).

By determining how negative emotions might hamper or interfere with the desired behaviors underlying a leadership competency, we can begin to recognize the critical importance of Emotional Intelligence in supporting and reinforcing desired behavior. Let’s look at the leadership competency Relating Skills. The behaviors underlying this competency might include demonstrating approachability, ability to successfully interact with all kinds of people, builds rapport, and uses diplomacy and tact. Obviously negative emotions would interfere with relating skills. Leaders would need to manage their own emotions in a variety of situations (Emotional Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation). They would need to recognize emotions in others, demonstrating empathy and nurturing relationships.

It’s easy to see how all EI competencies are key to ensuring the desired behaviors. Not being aware of one’s emotions or not being able to manage them would hamper performance as would not being motivated, empathetic or able to nurture relationships. The development of most leadership competencies can be supported by enhanced EI skill. Even when we consider technical leadership competencies, not having some level of EI skill can hamper performance.

As participants of EI skill-building programs enhance their EI skills, they also enhance their leadership competencies. This benefit provides significant leverage to organizational efforts aimed at growing leaders. To verify value for your organization, be sure to implement a method of measuring program results. Focus on obtaining information indicating use of techniques on the job and return on investment.

Byron Stock, a former engineer and director of corporate education, guides individuals and organizations toward excellence by helping them develop their Emotional Intelligence skills as a powerful tool to lead change, achieve strategic objectives and create resilient, high performing organizations. Byron offers emotional intelligence training, speaking, coaching and testing services that target today’s issues. Visit for a free excerpt of his book, Smart Emotions for Busy Business People.
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