Inside business: Tell your boss to grow up

The age of the overbearing employer is over, writes Roger Trapp
TOMORROW, the Industrial Society marks the beginning of what it is calling Leadership Week with the publication of a survey demonstrating that the old ideas of leadership are on their way out.

According to Ian Lawson, the organisation's director of leadership, the report shows that "the writing is on the wall" for command-and-control style leadership. Instead, people in all walks of life want leaders who can treat them as human beings.

Such findings are hardly new to Daniel Goleman, the man who has almost single-handedly put emotional intelligence into the thinking manager's lexicon. Dr Goleman - who was in London last week for the publication of the paperback version of his book Working with Emotional Intelligence (Bloomsbury) - writes in a recent Harvard Business Review article that, in a study he carried out, nearly 90 per cent of the difference between star performers and average ones in senior leadership positions was "attributable to emotional intelligence factors rather than cognitive abilities".

But what is emotional intelligence? In contrast to cognitive intelligence, or IQ, it broadly corresponds to the sort of things that the respondents to the Industrial Society research were looking for in their leaders. Looked at in more detail, it has five key components: self-awareness, or the ability to recognise and understand your moods, emotions and drives as well their effect on others; self-regulation, or the ability to control or re-direct disruptive impulses and moods; motivation, a passion to work for reasons that go beyond money and status; empathy, the ability to understand the emotional make-up of others; and social skill, proficiency in managing relationships and building networks. Organisations have long recognised the importance of the last of these, but it is only now that they are seeing the need to tackle all the aspects of the concept.

That said, though, there are signs that certain organisations are making the effort to make up for lost time. Dr Goleman, who wrote his first book Emotional Intelligence with the aim of alerting educators to the need to develop the quality among schoolchildren, says he has been amazed at the interest among business people. He has been so inundated with requests for help that he has teamed up with the Hay management consultancy to meet demand.

But, once he delved into the business area, he discovered what he calls "a golden vein" of material collected by companies to discover what makes people successful in organisations. All the studies offer conclusive support for the emotional intelligence theory, he says.

"IQ and technical skill still determine what profession you can enter, not how well you can do in it," he adds.

Such thinking is behind the adage that success in life is more about who you know rather than what you know. Since that implies a sort of "old boy network", it might be more accurate to talk in terms of applying what you know. At any rate, Dr Goleman believes the difference is that what was once implicit is now explicit. Business people have "a basis for arguing that this does matter and using it in a more efficient way".

However, there is a paradox. Just as society is now more open about the concept of emotional intelligence, it seems that workers are becoming less skilled in it. Dr Goleman put this down to children in developed countries being the "unintended victims" of two trends. The first is technological - the availability of PCs is making it possible to spend hours a day not communicating face-to-face with others. The second is economical - the growing tendency for both parents to work and the resulting reduction in free time in families. He says his theory is backed up by evidence from managers who say that young people are unable to collaborate, have trouble with feedback and find it hard to interact with colleagues.

The result, he says, is that companies will have to take on the position of schools. Challenging as that might be for them, it is not as bad as it could be, since Dr Goleman has insisted that emotional intelligence can be learned - in other circles it is called "maturing".

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the concept lies in the fact that it is starting to be introduced into business schools. For surely nobody has been more convinced of the supremacy of cognitive intelligence over everything else than the analysis-mad MBA.

`Smart Moves', page 3