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The rise of emotional intelligence

Jo Ouston

Jo Ouston from Jo Ouston & Co talks about the rise of emotional intelligence

In the 1980s, Sir John Alistair Graham, chief executive of the then Industrial Society, stated that the challenge for employers in the future would be to tap into the discretionary effort of their employees.  

At the time, none of us realised how true this would become.  

The landscape of work has changed radically. The old ‘command and control’ style of leadership is fast declining with the restructuring of industry, the shifting tide of employees and the rise of Generation Y who tend to seek collaborative, supportive work environments where they are motivated by a shared vision.  

This has renewed interest in the role that emotional intelligence plays in creating inspirational leaders, in part due to its resonance with the values and motivations of the younger generations.  In fact, emotional intelligence even made it onto the agenda at the Davos World Economic Forum, with business leaders keen to create better engagement with their employees.  

But even as more and more leaders and managers recognise this, what can they do about it in practice?

Five behaviours of outstanding leaders 

While there are many models of leadership, we inevitably return time and again to those with emotional intelligence at the core when working with groups and individuals who wish to inspire and motivate others.  

The work of James Kouzes and Barry Posner in this area is a very good place to begin.  

Both highly regarded academics, it is the basis in research that makes the work of Kouzes & Posner, outlined in their book The Leadership Challenge, so well respected. Over the past thirty years the co-authors have carried out surveys and interviews with over 60,000 leaders from every industry and background and identified five practices that outstanding leaders use consistently when dealing with others.  

These five practices are; 

• Inspiring a Shared Vision
• Challenging the Process
• Enabling Others to Act
• Encouraging the Heart
• Modelling the Way

Ten commitments – leading by example 

To help bring their findings to life for managers and leaders, Kouzes & Posner developed the ‘ten commitments’ – two behaviours under each of the five core practices that are displayed by outstanding leaders.  These commitments are:


Challenging the Process

• Search out challenging opportunities to change, grow, innovate and improve 
• Experiment, take risks and learn from the accompanying mistakes


Inspiring a Shared Vision

• Envision an uplifting and encouraging future
• Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to their values, interests, hopes and dreams


Enabling Others to Act

• Foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust
• Strengthen people by giving power away, providing choice, developing competence, assigning critical tasks and offering visible support


Modelling the Way

• Set the example by behaving in ways that are consistent with shared values
• Achieve small wins that promote consistent progress and build commitment


Encouraging the Heart

• Recognise individual contributions to the success of every project
• Celebrate team accomplishments regularly

While of course every individual has their own unique leadership style and areas of strength and weakness, the ten commitments provide a useful framework of behaviours from which to begin exploring leadership performance.  


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