Leader’s Pulse: How Emotional Intelligence Affects Leadership

Emotional Intelligence is largely seen as being more important than IQ when it comes to being a great leader. Explore the ways EI can affect both leaders and team dynamics in this first part of a 2 part series.

Part 1 of a 2 – Part Installment

If you show people you don’t care, they’ll return the favor. Show them you care, and they’ll reciprocate.” This has to be one of my all-time favorite quotes. It’s from Lee Bowlman and Terrence Deal from Leading with Soul. There is a dire need for technology managers to have Emotional Intelligence to work successfully with a team. From a leader’s point of view, in order to drive this, there is a need for a structure, vocabulary for the awareness, training, and managing against bad habits for your team. In this first installment we focus on soft side issues of leading—the touchy-feely stuff: Emotional Intelligence. The most referenced and most accessible structure is Emotional Intelligence developed by Daniel Goleman.

I suggest you watch the YouTube video of Daniel Goleman on Emotional Intelligence as you begin to explore Emotional Intelligence (EI) and Emotional Quotient (EQ).

There are many models such as: Bar-on Model and Mater-Salovey Model. These other models can be used as the foundation of your team’s communication and collaboration as well as the ideas behind your culture statement.

We will be focusing on tech teams and Emotional Intelligence, covering why it is important, its impact on productivity and collaboration, unique aspects with remote teams, culture and awareness, and training.

EI work is on the horizon for you if:

– You have ever thought a problem would have been easily avoided had a team member shown more compassion or empathy

– You or others on the team are not aware of how fast, loud, or emotionally-driven their speech is (be it angry or excited).

Be aware that there is a lot of accessible material available written on EI-don’t get overwhelmed.

Starting with the Basics

Daniel Goleman helped popularize Emotional Intelligence.

There are 5 key elements to it:

· Self-awareness

· Self-regulation

· Motivation

· Empathy

· Social skills

His landmark book: Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ is the definitive guide. His article in the Harvard Business Review, “What Makes a Leader,is a great entry point. This table is often used to graphically and quickly layout his structure.

Table Copyright © 2003 Harvard Business Review 
Take the Quiz!
For a proper and thorough analyzation of your EI: click here
For the much shorter version: click here

The Effect on Teams

After looking at this table, if you’re still wondering how these skills can benefit you at your job, then this article is probably not for you. If you really believe growing these skills will not benefit you at your workplace, then you probably can’t lead tech teams today.

As advised by Thomas Jefferson, “When angry, count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.” Whether this stands true in today’s thinking, people should think about their problems from a “fly on the wall” perspective. Researchers call this strategy “self-distancing”.

I hope that every leader or manager reading this can see how these attributes are not only a great benefit for you, but are essential foundation skills in our work. We, as leaders of tech teams, need to build and foster these skills. I bet you can also see how your team would benefit from having better interpersonal skills as a big bonus for their day-to-day tasks, communication, collaboration, teamwork and for just about every aspect of their job. There is great debate today about how EQ is more important than IQ (Intelligence Quotient). We do not need to have this discussion; this article is not about which quotient is more important, but rather how important developing your EI is. The need for Emotional Intelligence is great when you factor in our circumstances, tight schedules, constant interrupting notifications, communication, mandatory collaborations, dynamic products, and ambiguous requirements into our everyday work. Yet, this is an area where I never received training nor was I made aware. I had to go and read about it myself. I just knew I had to have these skills and grow them if I was going to be a better manager—or a manager at all.

Interestingly enough, according to a report by the Robert H. Smith School of Business from the University of Maryland, “71% of hiring managers said having EQ is more important than IQ and 51% of them said that they would NOT hire someone with a high IQ but a low EQ”. I later read some survey results I found alarming. In a 2017 OfficeTeam survey of more than 600 human resources managers and 800 office workers in the United States and Canada, most workers (92%) think they had strong Emotional Intelligence; fewer (74%) believe their bosses did. First, it should be noted that this could be some workers low opinion of their managers! But I read that this survey’s results revealed that many staff employees believe their managers lack Emotional Intelligence. I personally find it both strange and disappointing. When I was a staff employee, I was much looser with my comments; I would shoot from the hip, speak extemporaneously, and joke a lot. Immediately after I started supervising people, I became much more aware of, first, how people would interpret the tone that I set and then the words I used. This immediately changed my responses from being ‘off-the-cuff’ to (hopefully) being thoughtful. Next, I became much more concerned with how other people were feeling. I started to gauge the temperature of the room and the mood of a team before I would bring up the issues of the day. Before I ever heard the phrase Emotional Intelligence, I had to change how I was acting. I cannot imagine a manager not being aware or considerate of their staff’s mood, responses, and behaviors and still be a good manager! How? What’s the point?

Leaders, in addition to all of the other issues around Emotional Intelligence that we will discuss in this article, need to, by definition in their role, put their emotions second to the team. When we can all work together and everybody can be treated equally and fairly that’s of course the best case scenario. In situations where practicing your Emotional Intelligence is needed, leaders’ needs must be handled after the staff’s emotions are assessed. What I would believe in many cases, the staff still do and say is what they think or respond however they want. A manager has to simultaneously implement every component of Emotional Intelligence for themselves as well as nurture and demonstrate those practices for their staff. This should not be a new topic for any tech manager or leader. Tech folks have a reputation-right or wrong-for having few skills in this area. TV series like Silicon Valley have perpetuated Software Engineers and other tech workers with the stereotype of being socially inept, which is unfortunate. But the reality of this characterization is common and real. An article written by Ally Schweitzer for Wamu88.5 gives this point of view: “Three different CEOs mentioned that they do not like to hire computer science graduates”, says John Shaw, NVTC’s Research and Strategic Initiatives Manager. They would prefer to hire a liberal arts graduate because they will have the communication skills that tend to be more of [a] focus in the liberal arts.” (Hacker News). This leads us to many questions, but first, tech workers need to shift gears to better soft skills.


Do not underestimate the value of a high EI. A business culture statement builds the foundation for a strong culture and will foster a more reliable and effective team. It may come naturally for some, but will involve both hard work and dedication for others. As a manager, improving your team’s Emotional Intelligence begins with looking inwards. Evaluating yourself and working to improve on your level of EI will deliver a big payoff. Emotional Intelligence starts with you. Setting the bar for your team that you expect the same level of EI from them allows you to build trust, operate efficiently, and raise your productivity to become a high performing team. See part 2 in the September 2019 issue.

Michael Hackett
Michael is a co-founder of LogiGear Corporation, and has over two decades of experience in software engineering in banking, securities, healthcare and consumer electronics. Michael is a Certified Scrum Master and has co-authored two books on software testing. Testing Applications on the Web: Test Planning for Mobile and Internet-Based Systems (Wiley, 2nd ed. 2003), and Global Software Test Automation (Happy About Publishing, 2006). He is a founding member of the Board of Advisors at the University of California Berkeley Extension and has taught for the Certificate in Software Quality Engineering and Management at the University of California Santa Cruz Extension. As a member of IEEE, his training courses have brought Silicon Valley testing expertise to over 16 countries. Michael holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

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