Organizational Leaders Regularly Missing Employees Critical Needs

Use the term emotional intelligence and you might notice many leader’s facial expressions signal boredom, impatience or disgust.

Yet to the people who work in organizations and to those outside the organization who are affected by deficiencies or absence of emotional intelligence, the outcomes — healthy or unhealthy — are extremely meaningful, valued, desired and in more cases today, demanded.

Study the news, read message boards on websites where professionals gather, such as LinkedIn, or on industry-specific websites and it is clear to see that emotional intelligence (yawn, respond many organizational leaders) is underwhelming or badly, painfully missing in practice. A conviction of its importance is a shortcoming, if not an abject failure in some instances.

This manifests itself within organizations and how they conduct themselves with people outside of it and it gets worse in disputes, ongoing conflict, scandals and crises.

Reputation damage proves to be significant and despite its severity, that too is not accurately recognized or treated. So why the absence of emotional intelligence as a leadership responsibility, commitment, competence and practice?

(Harvey Deutschendorf, Emotional Intelligence expert and author)

“Studies have shown that the higher up one goes in organizations, the lower the level of emotional intelligence,” says Harvey Deutschendorf, an Emotional Intelligence expert and practitioner with two-plus decades of experience.

Deutschendorf, also the author of The Other Kind of Smart and a regular contributor to Fast Company and HR Professionals Magazine, says there theories as to why higher-level leadership often struggles with exhibiting more admirable and wanted humanity.

“Often leaders are still chosen based on their knowledge and ability to get things done, ignoring other areas. In the past, and still true today, many that rise up through the ranks due to being aggressive and have a reputation for getting things done,” he says.

Problematic is what isn’t practiced and valued with as much passion, commitment and perseverance.

“There has been a lack of attention and study of areas like employee retention, engagement and productivity due to bad management practices,” Deutschendorf says. “Even today, when a lot of lip service is paid to the importance of emotional intelligence, many organizations don’t spend any time or resources developing it in their organizations.”

Counterproductive maybe, considering the tangible and relationship costs that are regularly paid that organizations don’t identify and connect to deficiencies of relationship quality (that requires emotional intelligence).

“One of the reasons is that many organizations tend to be shortsighted, jumping from putting out fires and the crisis of the moment and don’t spend much time developing a culture that supports an emotionally intelligent culture,” Deutschendorf says.

A gap still exists between what leaders know and believe are needed investments and expenditures and what aren’t.

“Even though there is a lot of research showing how emotional intelligence benefits the bottom line, many organizations are either not aware of the research, don’t really believe it or find the idea of developing emotional intelligence complex and overwhelming,” Deutschendorf says.

Meanwhile, employees, clients, customers and the general public await to see much more emotionally intelligent leaders and organizations. Observe numerous stories in the media and you will recognize journalists often report on problems that are rooted in a low-quality or missing emotional intelligence.

Employees and the public’s wait for E.I. is a long, impatient and discouraging one as reading articles and message boards by professionals details. It creates burning resentment and criticism.

Leaders are not focused on or clearly identifying and ethically addressing the problems that result from emotional intelligence deficiencies inside and outside of organizations.

“Many don’t plan ahead and spend the time and resources needed to develop a culture that hires for, develops and promotes emotional intelligence,” Deutschendorf says.

Employees often ask themselves “how did this person get hired,” when a particular person is lacking in self awareness, social awareness, empathy, self regulating themselves and ability to build and nurture quality relationships.

Organizational leaders often insist they do seek and hire for those qualities yet the results within and outside organizations regularly don’t reveal evidence of that assumption.

“Many only look at technical skills and what is loosely defined as teamwork when hiring and don’t delve very deeply into how to hire for emotional intelligence, how to develop it and maintain a culture that supports it. This is an ongoing process which takes time and effort,” Deutschendorf says.

That time and effort might elicit a negative emotion and rejection yet that’s a an emotionally-driven and dangerous error. It also forfeits results that would benefit and please management.

“Organizations where people feel appreciated, valued and heard will pass these values onto their customers, and the community around them,” Deutschendorf has found. “There are a few organizations that state publicly that their staff come first. The ones that do, such as Southwest Airlines, are very successful and known for the high level of customer service they provide. They are also known for the culture they have developed that permeates all levels within the organization that promotes high levels of engagement between employees as well as employees and customers.”

There are practical steps that professionals in all professions can engage in to reliably help themselves and the people around them through personal development and improvement in emotional intelligence practices. The outcomes regularly lead to intangible rewards that translate to tangible benefits.

“The best way to increase our emotional intelligence is through learning what it is and practicing the competencies that are challenges for us. These are the areas that are holding us back and we need to work on,” Deutschendorf says.

How this is done is more strategic than it might initially seem puzzling. It does require a commitment that might not be emotionally driven, at least at first.

“First of all we need to become highly self-aware to understand ourselves and be willing to make the changes,” Deutschendorf says.

This requires movement, the kind that often proves to be the most challenging for us psychologically.

“Making those changes involves stepping out of our comfort zones and trying new ways of speaking, acting and being. We need to become aware of our feelings and find ways of managing them when we feel them taking over,” Deutschendorf explains.

He cautions that this is not a quick come-and-go event. Expecting it to be such is akin to expecting any important relationship to only require a one-time investment of smart human interaction, with no further sensitive and generous emotional and behavior connection.

“It is an ongoing process,” Deutschendorf says, “and it is crucial that we get continuous reliable, trusted feedback from others who have our best interests at heart.”

Maybe considering emotional intelligence practices is not the issue. Maybe reconsidering it, gaining a deeper understanding of what it does and creates and clearly seeing the protective, corrective, relationship benefits that drive leadership objectives is what is needed and required.

This is more true today with stronger employee, media and public expectations and demands for high standards for humanity and much stronger reputation risks to careers and organization well-being ever present.

Michael Toebe is a reputation specialist who helps individuals and organizations. He writes Red Diamonds Essays and Reputation Specialist Essays (both on the Medium platform) and analysis and advisory for online publications: Chief Executive, Corporate Board Member, New York Law Journal, Corporate Compliance Insights and Physicians Practice. He also publishes on LinkedIn and beBee and is the voice of the Red Diamonds Podcast.

Image in article courtesy of Pixabay

Michael Toebe is a specialist for reputation, scandal and crisis, writing about organizations and individuals.

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