by Denise Berger
Is America’s emotional intelligence on the rise? We all take pride in this auspicious election for the obvious, ubiquitous reasons. However, the most impressive moments arguably came during McCain’s concession speech and Obama’s acceptance speech. They spoke with a great deal of emotional intelligence, vowing to put aside the campaign competition and unite us under a common purpose – to restore faith in our nation by healing it together. Whether you voted for McCain or Obama, it was a great moment when McCain calmed his constituents and declared support of Obama in the name of our country. It takes a great deal of emotional intelligence to concede defeat, take responsibility, and then offer unity under the opponent. Similarly, Obama humbly added his respect for McCain and promised to be President equally for those who did not vote him into Office with those who did.
We talk about the “intelligence quotient” in certain terms – a measure of how smart someone is. However, beyond IQ, beyond expertise, beyond skill and experience, there is “emotional intelligence” – EQ in every interaction we have with one another. It is precisely this ability that needs to be fostered, smoothed out, carefully stored, and thoughtfully used throughout one’s lifetime. Why? Daniel Goleman states in his book, Working With Emotional Intelligence  that “As organizations shrink through waves of downsizing, those people who remain are more accountable – and more visible. Where earlier a midlevel employee might easily hide a hot temper or shyness, now competencies such as managing one’s emotions, handling encounters well, teamwork, and leadership, show – and count – more than ever.” He points out that there are five elements of EQ:
- self-awareness (even in the face of criticism),
- motivation (especially in times of adversity),
- self-regulation (to contain impulses and emotional responses),
- empathy (earnest and sincere, beyond mere sympathy), and
- adeptness in relationships (including tuning into different communication cues besides verbal).
Delving deeper into the elements of EQ reveals another related attribute: the willingness and ability to be introspective. According to John Lehrer of The Boston Globe, introspection is, in fact, a better predictor of judgment than intuition, supposition, experience, or intelligence! Ginny O’Brien of The Columbia Consultancy points out, “The very best decisions are made when leaders not only reflect on the decision itself but also on their own decision making process. And if this process includes considering a diversity of perspectives, even better decisions and judgments are made.”
Therefore, no small part of emotional intelligence is acceptance of diverse backgrounds and talents. Daniel Goleman aptly points out that, “There is strength in difference, and this makes the ability to leverage diversity an increasingly crucial competence.” He goes on to argue that diversity can not just be about zero tolerance or equal opportunity programming. We need to better demonstrate an appreciation for the unique ways others operate, tap into it, and take advantage of the ensuing business opportunities.
Now more than ever, we need to focus on building emotional intelligence within ourselves, with our co-workers, with our mentees, with the next generation, and with our children. Carol DiBattiste, SVP for LexisNexis, points to the importance of taking an interest in others, especially in these turbulent economic times. In her recent interview with Pink, she states, “When they succeed, you succeed.” Some parts of emotional intelligence are inherent, but we can certainly nurture and foster this critical success factor.