As thinking has evolved regarding elements important to successful human interaction, the realities of emotional intelligence (EI) impact increasingly on modern organizations, as well as in how individuals generally perceive others, communicate, and behave. In recent decades, EI has in fact been the object of a great deal of study, and essentially because the concept so expansively addresses the multiplicity component of human intelligence itself. If we rely on reason when we seek to arrive at rational conclusion, we are also and inevitably influenced by how we interpret information, and/or potentially neglect matters critical to the issue at hand. In simple terms, EI then exists to emphasize the inherently exponential relationship between the rational and emotional minds, and in ways reinforcing the importance of awareness of emotional states. These states, moreover, are manifested in both interpersonal and intrapersonal ways; the former is concerned with understanding how others feel, while the latter goes to a heightened knowledge of one’s own emotional being (Goleman, 2006, p. 39). As will be seen, then, EI is an invaluable approach or skill in the cooperative processes of organizations, and one essentially necessary for the effective leader.
Speaking personally, Errigo’s Making Teams Stick Together: Emotional Intelligence and Team Cohesion, if not an intensely scholarly work, nonetheless provides crucial insights as to the subject of how EI functions within leadership. Many of these with the most meaning to me are, admittedly, “common sense,” yet Errigo’s means of presenting them adds validity and dimension to what is otherwise assumed. For example, I was impressed by the author’s discussion on cohesion, and how this is a primary responsibility of any leader. More exactly, as cohesion is necessary for the effectiveness of a team, the leader is obligated to do everything in their power to make this a consistent reality. Errigo importantly notes that cohesion goes beyond promoting cooperation and efficiency; it is as well defined by the sense of contentment it brings to all involved in a team (2012, p. 10). Another point I found particularly relevant is the author’s differentiating between the team assembled by a leader exercising little forethought, and the one created through a careful consideration of each individual’s potentials, skills, emotional being, and limitations. In plain terms, the creation of a team should never occur by chance (Errigo, 2012, p. 13). While this as well reflects basic reasoning, it is too common that teams are assembled because the members happen to be available.
Consequently, the leader must be proactive and employ EI in forming a team, or face the likelihood of its failure. Lastly, I was impressed by Errigo’s reinforcement of a seemingly contradictory principle; namely, that the leader who engages in active awareness of each individual’s needs promotes the cohesion of the team as a collective (2012, p. 19). The leader must have an ongoing and accurate sense of the individuals, and, while not directly referred to by Errigo, communication is vital to this process. I perceive these points as foundations for how I evaluate – and alter – my leadership in the future, and because they are so grounded in fundamental realities of team interactions.
The “Aha!” Moment
Interestingly, Errigo’s presentation of the “Aha!” moment is far from going to sudden and shocking awareness. Rather, he defines it as when the leader learns through being open to the emotions of others, employs this to enhance team development, and then is better enabled to direct the team to the organizational goals (Errigo, 2012, p. 32). I support this fully but, when I consider my own experience, actual “Aha! Moments do occur as surprises. For example, I led a meeting of a team within my contracting company not long ago, and the purpose was to consider the potential advantages of reassigning certain duties from several individuals to others. By and large, the team was agreeable to the changes and several members cited definite benefits to shifting the noted responsibilities. I had an awareness, however, that one woman, while by no means expressing resistance, was unhappy with the idea of seeing another take over a function of bookkeeping she had long handled. I felt that she perceived this change as minimizing her own skills, so I responded to this “Aha!” moment by asking her if she would consider taking on an even greater responsibility. In a matter of a few moments, it was clear that she felt validated and appreciated, and I definitely believe that the leader’s constant state of awareness is then crucial for the organizations health, and also likely to enhance growth in the future.
The EI Survey
Having taken Errigo’s Emotional Intelligence Survey, I am both pleased with the results and uncertain of them as absolutely reflecting reality. More exactly, I scored highly in general terms, and I consistently tried to be as objective as possible, but I know as well that it is extremely easy to believe we have skills not necessarily in place. I then gave a good deal of time and thought to each answer, and I am confident that some are valid. I know, for example, that I lead meetings while maintaining an awareness of members’ emotional states, and I feel I interpret these correctly. At the same time, and even as I believe that I understand motivations based on behaviors, I realize that motivations are often complex, so I question my own confidence here. Then, and going to improving my EI, I am not entirely pleased with how I dominate team discussions. As the leader, this is a facet of my role, but I would like to work on generating more input and freedom of opinion in others, even as I direct the discussions. I feel that this will both present myself as more confident and give me greater opportunity to perceive otherwise hidden feelings and motivations.
The Cohesion Survey
In taking this survey, I relied on my experience as leading my contracting company, so certain questions were inapplicable. Then, I was also unsure of how the scoring functioned; Errigo asserts that more “agrees” support greater team cohesion, yet an “agree” to number seven – “I find that I generally do not get along with the other members of my team” – would certainly not indicate cohesion. Nonetheless, the survey did give me new perspectives on my team’s cohesion, and largely because of EI itself; that is, I found myself thinking about each question as my team members would respond to it. Certain questions generated a more personal reaction. For example, I was struck by the question going to my being friends with the team members. I believe this is often problematic for many, simply because it is too easy to confuse real friendship with the kinds of agreeable relationships based in the work environment.
As the leader, however, this is not something I feel I should ever actually pursue. I am responsible in this case of the team in question, and in any such team efforts within the company, to lead with an active interest in how others are feeling and behaving, as themselves and in interactions. At the same time, it is too common for the leader who seeks friendship with employees to experience diminished respect, as well as a vast range of potential conflicts. Ultimately, the survey did affirm that, from my perspective, my team exhibits cohesion, and I attribute much of this to my ambitions to practice EI skills.
- Errigo, J. J. (2012). Making Teams Stick Together: Emotional Intelligence and Team Cohesion. Available from https://s3-eu-west- 1.amazonaws.com
- Goleman, D. (2006). Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. New York: Bantam Books.