“When I left you, I was but the learner;
now I am the master”
Darth Vader to Obi Wan Kenobi
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We know from the works of Daniel Goleman, Dr. Reuven Bar-On and HBR’s many articles on Emotional Intelligence (EI) that effective levels of EI boosts your success as a leader, helps you manage stress and is crucial for anyone who has a role of people development
Having spent the last twelve years improving my EI skills and knowledge with the purpose of developing effective EI leadership and team behaviours, one of the things that speaks loudly to me is –There is definitely a “Dark Side” to Emotional Intelligence”
This article’s purpose is not to educate on EI (there’s too much for one article) but to shine a light on The Dark Side of EI !
When we become masters of a particular skill it usually indicates that we have a superior proficiency of that skill. This mastery shows up across our multiple intelligences – master of music, master of education, master of science etc..
When we look at it from a leadership position – what does mastery of leadership look like?
Mastery of Leadership has 2 distinct tracks – one is business mastery and the other behaviours mastery
Business Mastery – how you do your job from strategic planning to marketing to finance etc.
Behaviours Mastery – how you ‘be’ with yourself, your team, staff, employees, customers (people focused)
This is where EI comes in to play, it is the key intelligence that supports, develops and improves behaviours mastery
Welcome to the Dark Side
Take a simple scenario…
Team member John tells leader Bob that he didn’t get the report complete because he hadn’t allowed enough time. Leader Bob while put out at short notice goes in to ‘fix it’ mode and tells John – don’t worry, I can fix this, try not let it happen again.
While this demonstrates empathy and loyalty to John – how is it helping him be accountable and responsible for delivering his results?
Scale it up
Let’s take that simple scenario and scale it up to the whole team. If Bob is doing the same thing across his team then there is a lack of necessary learning experiences (some pain involved) for the personal and career development of his individual team members and the team as whole.
Every time there is an event or a situation that needs that ‘accidental learning’ outcome, Bob is there to cushion the fall and therefore reduces their opportunity for acquiring new skills or improving existing ones.
This is what can cause a black hole for skills and behaviours in organisations. When a leader with overly enhanced EI leaves and moves on, the business is left with an underdeveloped and under-performing team. A nasty surprise all round!
Lets consider the team members left behind
They came to rely on the force of their leader and were betrayed by the dark side of EI.
The cost to the business is great, the cost to the individuals greater!.
The individuals feel let down on many fronts, mainly by their leader but also by the business that let it happen.
The leader they looked up to, relied on and entrusted their career development with, has left them exposed and vulnerable and in some cases inadequately skilled and resourced to do their job.
This can lead to increased stress, lack of productivity and in some cases a move to another organisation. For the business it’s a loss of potential talent and an increase in new hire costs.
Three indicators that the master is killing development:
- They recover too quickly from a set-back
- They buffer the lack of skills in their staff by compensation with their own
- Their team holds them in high regard but can find their ability to fix everything intimidating
Anyone in a role of people development needs to be effectively functioning with behaviours that support how they manage themselves, manage others and manage the environment they are in.
To use EI effectively in leadership, you need to be aware of the impact it has on developing others and make conscious decisions how much of it to use in each situation for the best results.
As Darth Vader said “You underestimate the power of the Dark Side”
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