Session 5: Emotional Intelligence

Today’s session began with a discussion of organisational culture, using Johnson and Scholes’ Culture Web as a starting point, then breaking us up into groups to explore each of the six factors making up the organisational paradigm and how they are expressed and represented at the university. Those factors were broken into two groups, representing soft and hard aspects of the organisational culture, soft being:

  • Ritual and Routines;
  • Stories;
  • Symbols;

and hard:

  • Control Systems;
  • Organisational Cultures;
  • Power Structures.

This was followed by a discussion on the differences between, and the problems caused by the discrepancy between how the most senior management wishes an organisation to be perceived and what it is actually like and how it is perceived by others, internal and external. Of particular note was the problems that arise when management tries to change or impose a new set of values.

We were then asked to reflect on our personal values and how those link to, or are in conflict with the values of the university. This wasn’t too difficult for me. I know myself, and there are some pretty core values which came to mind instantly, including inclusivity, openness, honesty and trust, and I’m pleased to be able to say that these are fitting in very well with my team and the culture at the University of Sunderland in general. It’s been almost two years now and I’m still very happy here and glad I made the leap from Northumbria, an institution where they tried to change the organisation’s culture and values from the top with results that decorum prevents me from commenting on.

This all led into the core topic for today’s session, emotional intelligence. The concept of emotional intelligence, henceforth EI, was popularised in the mid-90s by Daniel Goleman, based on the work of Mayer and Salovey. In his 1996 book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Goleman defined EI as “… abilities such as being able to motivate oneself and persist in the face of frustrations; to control impulse and delay gratification; to regulate one’s moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think; to empathize and to hope.” A great deal of research was introduced to us, much of it as post-session reading, going into the history and developments of EI as a concept, and showing that the ability to manage our emotions and relationships has been consistently linked to effective leadership.

A number of self-assessment exercises to measure EI have been developed by psychologists and we were asked to complete one of these, the Schutte Emotional Intelligence Scale, which provided a global EI score and scores in the four individual capabilities:

  • Perception of emotion (self-awareness);
  • Managing emotions in the self (self-management);
  • Managing other’s emotions (social awareness);
  • Utilization of emotions (social skill).

My global EI was 123, with a mean of 125, but my scores in the related capabilities of ‘managing emotions in the self’ and ‘utilization of emotions’ were above the mean, and in the remaining two capabilities a little below the mean. That is a result that rings true to me, and accords with my personality as an introvert and my Insights Discovery profile which pegged me as a ‘Coordinating Observer’.

EI can be developed and improved upon and the session gave us some tools and ideas on how to do this, one of which was to keep a reflective journal, which is handy for me, as that is one of the reasons I keep this blog! Although I must admit that, being public, posts here are edited and tailored for an audience, rather than just being for myself and thus completely candid, and while I do also keep a private journal, work related things rarely make it in there.

The session linked EI back to transformational leadership by introducing us to the Betari Box, showing the cycle of how your attitude affects your behaviour, which affects the attitude of others which affects their behaviour, and that comes back to affect your own behaviour; and highlighting the body of research that shows a strong link between high EI and successful managers.

Finally, Goleman’s work on types of leadership was discussed and we performed an exercise to divulge our own leadership styles and preferences. The six leadership styles identified by Goleman are:

  • Coercive – demands immediate compliance;
  • Authoritative – mobilises people towards a vision;
  • Affiliative – creates emotional bonds and harmony;
  • Democratic – builds consensus through participation;
  • Pacesetting – expects excellence and self-direction;
  • Coaching – develops people for the future.

Goleman argues that all of these styles are of value in different situations, but cites evidence in the form of case studies and surveys that shows that generally some are more effective than others, with a coercive style being least effective and authoritative the most. Note that authoritative in this context doesn’t mean leading by command, by asserting authority, but leading by example and being able to articulate a clear, achievable goal, while giving people the trust and freedom to find their own means of getting there. The self-assessment exercise revealed that I lean towards the affiliative and democratic styles, but shows an interesting gap in how comfortable I feel using an authoritative style and how often I actually use it. Something to work on I think. Something else I’ll take away from the session is a sense of responsibility to be more proactive in setting the mood of the team on a daily basis to help make the university a positive and happy place to work.