Emotions driving logic in business

«Emotion guides logic and logic cannot exist without emotion. Leadership means above all relationships and any leader not realizing this basic principle cannot lead,» argues Richard Boyatzis, regarding leaders’ needs to develop their emotional intelligence. Boyatzis, of Greek origin, is an organizational behavior and psychology professor at the Case Western Reserve University and a visiting lecturer in the human resources management department of ESADE university in Barcelona. He spoke to Kathimerini about the meaning of emotional intelligence and how modern business leaders can approach their employees’ human side. How do you define emotional intelligence, particularly regarding modern leaders? It is about the clever grasp of feelings. Leaders today have to understand and then manage and utilize their own feelings in the best possible way. Then they must be able to grasp the sentiments of people with whom they cooperate; this is «social intelligence.» It is a rare gift but leadership is about relationships, otherwise the corporation has a problem. Do you believe we should express our feelings and, if so, how can this be applied in practice? Modern leaders have to understand that compassion brings devotion and that sentiment drives logic. First we feel and then we act. The human brain can receive the messages other people send. If we pay attention to the sentiments we receive from other people around us, we can tune into them better. This resonance brings about improved cooperation. These days, in particular, when competition is fierce and decision making requires calmness, emotional intelligence is more important than ever. The greater people’s stress is, the more important it becomes to develop relationships based on proper sentiment management. The core of these relationships is a system starting from self-knowledge and personal feelings management, and ends in understanding others and the construction of relationships with them on the basis of the sentiments exchanged. Leadership resonance has three parameters: compassion, hope and mindfulness. Its opposite, dissonance, is the cause of most problems in work relationships. A key tool to this effort is dialogue, as it helps the expression of hope and compassion. The more one is stressed at work, the more one should listen to one’s feelings and remember that life should be happy. How does a leader prepare to play this role? Unfortunately, universities do not prepare individuals for this role. Emotional intelligence should enter the syllabus of future leaders’ courses. Already some business schools include it and a similar effort is being made in Greece, too. Education can be the means to prepare for the future. Research shows that managers and business leaders can learn the principles of emotional intelligence by taking part in seminars. Some unions in the US have realized its significance and ask us to help so that their members remain productive for longer. How can company officials defend against a leader who ignores the principles of emotional intelligence and develops «dissonant» relationships? In such a case, the work environment can even be branded as «toxic.» Lack of compassion leads to a lack of devotion, and that to relationships which do not work. There are three solutions to this: First, employees can approach the leader to understand his or her vision for the company which has obviously not been explained. The second is departure; that is the most feasible and effective solution for anyone who feels unutilized. Finally, there is the hard solution of creating places where emotional intelligence can easily develop. This usually happens in big corporations, where the leader is obviously unable to create bonds with all employees. This requires department managers to create a positive climate for dialogue with relationships based on the principles of emotional intelligence. Usually it is managers who develop emotional intelligence as it is hard for leaders to cultivate the company’s culture on an international level. What is your advice to modern leaders? They must remember that productivity and efficiency do not only concern the improvement of skills. Leaders must also refer to their past and consider the purpose of their lives, what they want to achieve and the causes and aims of their acts. We came to life to experience happiness personally and professionally. Let’s not forget that and let’s adjust our actions accordingly. Hope and compassion are what we are left with in hard times.