Emotional intelligence is not just about the individual. The degree to which emotionally intelligent behaviours are demonstrated by leaders who shape organisational structures and practices becomes critical. Leaders create organisations in their own image, closely reflecting their strengths and inadequacies.
The following figures explore the relationship between leaders’ emotional intelligence and the climate they create around them. The first figure demonstrates the effect of a leader with low self-esteem both on colleagues and on the nature of the organisation as a whole:
Low Emotional Intelligence and Disconnected Leadership
This person will be highly focused on their own position and status within the company, tending to follow their own interests over and above those of the organisation. This will often be manifested in competitive behaviours with colleagues and a dismissive or blame-focused relationship with subordinates, combined with stress and defensiveness. Such leaders are likely to build or shape organisational structures in which employees are micro-managed with little trust or autonomy and locked into functionally specific (and therefore controllable) roles; likewise employees with ideas for innovation or improvement may be seen as subversive, whilst risk-taking and experimentation will be suppressed by a climate of fear.
We may anticipate in the figure below that a very different climate and structure will be created by the emotionally intelligent leader. A leader with higher self-regard and regard for others will be focused on aspirations wider than those of their own role and status. Hierarchy and authority will not be important; rather the emphasis will be on collaboration and trust, recognising that others have the skills and abilities needed to make things work, and taking us back to the Co-Created Leadership approach described above. Mistakes and failure are learning opportunities rather than something to be admonished, providing the leadership climate in which workplace innovation can thrive.
High Emotional Intelligence and Co-Created Leadership
Of course these two distinct characterisations of emotional intelligence and leadership are extremes. Most individuals will manifest attributes from both sides, reflecting changing contexts and pressures. Yet the strength of emotional intelligence as an enabler of workplace innovation is that it is not fixed; like the innovative workplace itself, the emotional intelligence of leaders is enhanced by learning and reflection on both failure and success.
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