Are You An 'Emotionally Intelligent' Leader Or A Dimwit? - InformationWeek

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Are You An 'Emotionally Intelligent' Leader Or A Dimwit?

Recession or no recession, dot-com boom or bust, bull or bear market, it doesn't seem to matter. For as long as I've been covering tech career trends (about 15 years,) employers have complained about shortages of IT professionals who have the right balance of "people skills" and tech-skills du jour. However, now there's a new skill shortage developing--a scarcity of "emotionally intelligent" IT leaders. Have you tapped into your emotional intelligence today?

Recession or no recession, dot-com boom or bust, bull or bear market, it doesn't seem to matter. For as long as I've been covering tech career trends (about 15 years,) employers have complained about shortages of IT professionals who have the right balance of "people skills" and tech-skills du jour. However, now there's a new skill shortage developing--a scarcity of "emotionally intelligent" IT leaders. Have you tapped into your emotional intelligence today?In case you missed it, the term "emotional intelligence" first popped up on book shelves and newsstands in 1995 with the release of Daniel Goleman's book called, well, Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books).

That tome, and a number of follow-up books and articles, outlined how one's ability (or inability) to identify and understand one's own emotions--and those of others--influences that person's knack for leading, motivating or alienating others.

For instance, like on deadline day when your multi-million dollar IT project is due to go live, and your team has been working weeks of 18-hour days to fix a big glitch, but then Joe, VP of marketing, walks by your office asking if you can help him program his new iPhone--do you:

a) Bite your tongue and help Joe

b) Hastily pawn off Joe to one of your frazzled staff

c) Tell Joe to get lost

d) Ask Joe how he's feeling

Even if you haven't read the book (which I admittedly haven't,) you get the idea. Recognizing, for instance, when you--or others--are about to pop, but knowing how to tap and channel those emotions for a more productive (and civil) outcome are admirable and useful skills for anyone, but especially leaders.

Ok, Goleman's book came out 13 years ago. So why is emotional intelligence suddenly so important (and apparently in shortage) for IT leaders now? Surely, there have always been shortages of "emotionally intelligent" leaders of all kinds--from executives to politicians, teachers to camp counselors--even before the book was published. (How did Noah coax the mules onto that ark, anyhow?)

The problem now, however, is that there's a new melting pot of generation gaps stewing in today's workplace. You've probably heard that too. Baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, Millenials--everyone is trying to work together like one big, happy, dysfunctional family.

However, you've probably also heard (or maybe even participated in) examples of how grumpy Baby Boomer managers don't have a clue (or the patience) to motivate coddled Millenials, the 20-somethings who grew up in the self-esteem-aware era where everyone's a winner.

Those same newbies also have a penchant for making the world greener, balancing life and work, and are "very goal and metric driven," says Shelly Funderburg, a VP at Right Management, the human capital consulting services arm of staffing firm Manpower.

So, as a leader, knowing how to tap into what makes those youngsters (as well as the old timers) tick--and learning how to modify your style to cultivate the very best work out of these people (and retain those employees), well, that's a big ingredient in the recipe for success for your own career, as well as your organization, Funderburg says.

Emotional intelligence skills are sort of a next level in "soft-skills," or interpersonal, communication skills, she says. "It boils down to how the emotion is infused in interpersonal relationships, how do you communicate when you or others are under stress," she says.

"There's a lot of change happening in the workplace, higher levels of stress," says Funderburg, whose company offers coaching for leaders to develop emotional intelligence skills.

"Everyone is different, people derail for different reasons," she says. Coaching can help individuals diagnose what's likely to derail them, and how to develop a "toolkit" to deal with that--as well as effectively lead and motivate others in challenging, stressful situations.

A recent Right Management survey of 656 HR managers in North America found that only 23% of organizations provide new leaders (or those individuals who recently advanced to supervising others) with any sort of coaching to assist their development in that career transition. That's where the potential shortage of emotionally intelligent IT leaders of the future comes in.

How's your emotional intelligence coming along?

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