Daniel Goleman interview – Emotional intelligence and the CIO

Last month, Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, with more than 5,000,000 copies in print, stepped away from his desk, and put aside his work on his latest book to spend a little time talking with me about emotional intelligence and leadership, and what those two character traits mean for IT directors in the UK.

There are four parts to emotional intelligence – at least in my model, and that of a couple of other people. The first is self-awareness, knowing what you feel, and why you feel it, and getting in touch with your values. The second is managing yourself, motivating yourself, keeping going towards your goals, bouncing back from setbacks, and being cool under stress. The third is social awareness, and particularly empathy, knowing what other people are thinking, sensing their feelings, and showing concern when they need your help. And then, the fourth is relationship skills, your ability to influence, to negotiate, to communicate, and so on.

This has taken off in many parts of the world actually. And also, many, many businesses are offering courses to help with emotional development. Examples are team-building exercises, and training in communication or negotiation. Some companies have brought in coaches, particularly for the top level, the C-level folks, to help them hone their emotional intelligence, because the higher you go in an organisation, the more these skills matter for your effectiveness.

That means that everyone you spend time with influences you, for better or for worse. And then you may ask, well can you get better after the mid-20s? The answer is, yes, but it takes effort.

We don’t understand the specifics, but we do know that people in that category need to develop workarounds, which is to learn cognitively what to do in situations that other people would learn using their emotional or social centres. It doesn’t mean you can’t learn, it’s just a different kind of learning. I think it also takes longer and is more challenging.

And there are some people who are wonderful as individual contributors but just can’t make it as a leader. Often, a lack of empathy and relationship skills is the reason why.

And so, I would put the relationship that way. IQ is threshold largely, and knowledge and experience help, but not enough to overcome poor relationship abilities. And once again, the higher you are in the organisation, the more the emotional intelligence competencies matter.

If command and control is the only leadership style you have, you’re in trouble, because urgent situations only come up now and then, but you’re more often in a situation where you need to inspire people and listen to people. So you should use your emotional intelligence to communicate well with people on a day-to-day basis, and then when during crunch time, you can tell them what to do. That’s fine.

The reason was, he would sit down and start talking about his perception of problems and how he could solve them. But he never asked clients what they thought the problems were in the first place. He didn’t have these basic communication skills.

However, you don’t have give up on people. These skills can be trained. So, if somebody has a modicum of emotional intelligence abilities, but isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer that way, you can still help them. It’s very learnable.

He has a rather compelling sense of what the world needs. And he has a program that begins getting our own inner house under control – fewer destructive emotions and a more positive outlook. The second part is adopting an ethic of compassion – and then acting on that with effectiveness, whether it’s in weeding out corruption, or helping the needy, or healing the planet. He argues for dialogues instead of hostilities. And another part of his program is teaching all this for future generations.

That’s the plan.


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