The Business Case for Emotionally Intelligent Leaders Continues to Pour In

Yet another survey, the exact same message!  The global consulting firm Six Seconds just published their 2012 Workplace Issues Report, “Insights on the People Side of Performance” and it is yet another significant piece of evidence that a new perspective towards leadership, teams, and organizational culture needs to emerge.  In the report, the three key findings were the need for identifying, hiring, and retaining talent; the thirst of employees for visionary leaders; and the absence of business culture that resonates emotional intelligence.  This report is in total alignment with the previous, recent research conducted by RogenSi, McKinsey & Co.®, The Gallup Company, Maritz Research, peer-reviewed research from Cornell, and the IBM CEO Survey of 2010.   I can’t help but wonder when leadership will get the message and finally move forward to embrace a transformational approach their employees are crying out for in survey after survey?

Talent is the key factor in our modern economy.  Without talent companies cannot create and market innovative products and services.  The key driver of value creation in the 21st century is the commercialization of intellectual property (IP).  The source of IP is human creativity.  Fully engaged, inspired, and creative human beings, working cohesively together, are the raw material of business.  Yet every single survey and research paper I’ve read over the past two years points to the exact same conclusion.  There is a critical leadership crisis in the business world today that has left employees feeling empty, used, and of little value.  Our own firm dug a little deeper into the flood of research and calculated that many firms are lucky to be getting a positive return on investment on approximately half of their payroll.  If Henry Ford had seen a 50% scrap rate on his raw materials how quickly do you think he would have addressed it?  Exactly.  Yet we continue to see transactional leadership continuing with business as usual.

The second key issue that surfaces in this report is the desire of associates to be led by visionary leaders.  People don’t come to work looking to lose.  They want to win, they want to succeed, and they want to feel like their a part of something purposeful and larger than themselves.  This is especially true for Gen Y and Gen X associates.  We can find very clear insights for our human need, our very human nature that is pre-programmed to embrace visionary, transformational leadership by looking at Dr. Jaak Panksepp’s research on Core Mammalian Emotional Systems.  These are constant, hard-wired emotions all mammals share and respond to accordingly.  Create an environment that cultivates fear (which is what transactional leaders do…light on the reward and heavy on the punishment) and you’ll get a very predictable emotional response; disengagement.  Cultivate an atmosphere that encourages seeking (which is what visionary, transformational leaders do) and you’ll also get a very predicable emotional response; engagement.  Engagement is a pre-requisite for creativity, the single most important leadership attribute identified in the IBM Global CEO Survey.  Seeking, our constant impulse to explore and make sense of our environment, is directed and coordinated, to a great degree, by the vision of the business.  We all want to know where we’re going.  Leaders that authentically leverages this core emotion accelerate accretive value creation; the whole is genuinely greater than the sum of its parts.  This isn’t theory, I’ve seen it work first-hand.

The final key issue, the absence of organizational culture that resonates with emotional intelligence, points directly to the solution!  Emotionally intelligent leaders (self-aware, self regulating, socially aware, and relationship driven) cultivate a mindful, engaging organizational culture in which people can flourish.  Unfortunately, that’s not what we’re seeing.  Leaders say one thing, and then their behavior indicates another.  This state of incongruity resonates throughout the organizational culture.  People feel this intensely and choose to go into survival mode, avoid taking any risks, stop creating, and simply try to stay off the radar.  Here’s a quote from a professional that was surveyed by Six Seconds that pretty much says it all, “We have abandoned all leadership training, in large part because upper management was frightened by the gap between information presented and their own leadership practices.”

We’re approaching an inflection point.  A time when the urgency to act will emerge.  For many firms, this sense of awareness will come too late, and they’ll find themselves just another footnote of history.  People misinterpreted Darwin’s theory of evolution.  It isn’t survival of the fittest, it is those that are most adaptive that survive.  We live in a time of accelerating, adaptive challenges and unprecedented volatility.  Transactional leadership, the status quo in business, is walking the same path of the Dodo bird.

© 2012, Terry Murray.


Filed under Leadership Development, Organizational Culture, Team Building

2 responses to “The Business Case for Emotionally Intelligent Leaders Continues to Pour In

  1. Hi Terry – I am glad you liked the report. Your logic here is very clear – if we stick w/ old methods, we get old results… which is not what’s needed in a new economy. What’s confusing about that? 🙂

  2. Hi Joshua,

    Thanks so much! I applaud your work, especially at the educational level with adolescents. I wish these concepts had been introduced to me when I was 15 instead of in my forties!


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