Dr. Daniel Goleman is a pioneering thought leader in the emergent field of emotional intelligence. A behavioral sciences writer for the New York Times for twelve years, Goleman is a prolific writer and deep thinker on the importance of emotional intelligence in leadership and management work. In 2002, he collaborated with Leader to Leader Board of Governors member Annie McKee on the best-selling business book Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence.
Dr. Goleman's latest book, Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence pulls together some of his most insightful work on this useful topic. He took the time this week to answer some questions for Leader to Leader about the book and his work:
1. Your new book is entitled Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence. Could you give us a condensed definition of emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence (of EI) includes self mastery (self-awareness and self-regulation), plus social intelligence (empathy and social skill). Both are essential: you have to lead yourself before you can lead others. There are sets of leadership competencies that set the best-performers apart from average, that build on these basics – e.g., self-regulation is the basis for the discipline to achieve goals, to be adaptable, and to remain calm and clear under pressure. These leadership competencies are learned – and learnable.
2. What drives your passion on this topic? Was there a paradigm-shifting single experience or an accumulation of insights over your career?
I got interested in the concept (proposed in 1990 by two Yale psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer) while I was a science journalist at the New York Times. It appealed to me because a great deal of new discoveries about the brain and emotions supported the model, and the date has been strengthening over the years.
3. You write that you first started calling attention to emotional intelligence in 1995 and that since then, the term has become ubiquitous, with ever-increasing qualitative data on its importance and application. Why do you think interest and the practice of emotional intelligence has spread so rapidly?
Emotional intelligence is intuitively powerful – we know in our hearts this matters. So there was great uptake as soon as the idea emerged, around the world. And in organizations there had been the fiction that people left their emotions at the door – now we see that leaders can be intelligent about emotions. And that continues to have great appeal.
4. Do you see different uses of emotional intelligence among different generations (ie: Boomers, Gen Y, Gen X, Millennials)?
Boomers were a generation in positions of power when EI was introduced, and there were definitely pockets of resistance – I remember being told early on I couldn’t use the word “emotion” in a business setting. The younger generations have grown up with this idea, and are increasingly comfortable. I was taking to a Millenial doing a startup, and he said, matter-of-factly, “We have a rule: notice how you impact the team.” That’s basic EI at work.
5. Outside of emotional intelligence, what do you think are the most important qualities for a great leader to cultivate?
We need leaders with grand vision, who can embrace goals for the greater good.
Have you ever read any of Dr. Goleman's work? Have you ever had an experience where you practiced or learned from the application of emotional intelligence? Tell us your perspective below.