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Many of the hierarchal and authoritarian styles of leadership have become obsolete, and we’ve experienced significant strides in replacing them with our advanced experiential knowledge. Rewards-punishment “transactional” management styles have proven unproductive. New studies have encouraged us to embrace “transformative styles” in which organizational leaders inspire their teams to achieve a collective purpose.

Yet we’re still in the transition zone. We need to equip more leaders with the skills that combine interpersonal abilities, including empathy and trust, with the capacity to model creative problem solving when faced with tough situations. We refer to this skill set as Emotional Intelligence (EI). EI is such a crucial job skill that its positive impact on the workplace has nearly surpassed technical ability, as proven by its popularity in recent years.

In simple terms, EI is the ability to identify and manage emotional information in oneself and in others. Although it has proven its value in the workplace, we continue to experience a scarcity of this new brand of leadership talent. According to a global survey by Deloitte, leadership is the most urgent concern when considering gaps in workforce readiness.

Why haven’t we done a better job of cultivating high EI skilled leaders? One reason is that we continue to mistakenly believe good technical or sales skills translate to good management skills. The thinking that has unfortunately hung on seems to be: If they excel at analyzing, fixing, and selling, then they are able lead others to excel, as well. But the facts are that these skills and competencies have little to do with being a good leader.

Another erroneous standard of leadership talent is mistakenly assuming that high IQ is a predictor of leadership strength. While leaders likely have higher IQs than followers, the qualities that make up strong leaders go far beyond one’s cognitive intelligence.

Finally, choosing leaders based on personality remains widespread. Aggressiveness and extroversion, characteristics that tends to stand out in job candidates, don’t typically correlate with self-awareness, flexibility, and influencing others. Forceful leaders may be good at giving orders, but that doesn’t generally translate into inspiring others into action.

New research confirms that EI is most effective in improving workplace morale. After gleaning results from the largest database of EI test scores in the world, our research identified four pillars of EI that form the foundation of competencies needed to prepare and propel today’s business world into success now and the future.

The good news is that all can practice the four pillars to transform their personal and organizational leadership style:

  1. Express authenticity on every level. Acting without integrity can be the kiss of death in today’s world. Today’s top leaders must be seen as credible, fair, and “real.” Bombastic, arrogant, and dominating leaders are out, and humility, which is considered a strength, is in. Employees will offer the respect leaders desire and go the extra mile when they think their leaders are genuine.
  2. Coach others to realize their full potential.Collaboration and mentoring make up today’s more equitable workplaces. Top leaders coach their teams through management styles as in simply walking around to be seen and available, and one-on-one meetings where they listen to employees’ concerns, offer feedback and guidance, and take responsibility for removing obstacles.
  3. Communicate the organization’s mission in a way that inspires employees, suppliers, and customers.Companies are realizing they are not in business just to make money or produce a product. Developing a sense of higher purpose (for example, Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”) heightens engagement and motivation for employees and other stakeholders, which helps attract and retain the right people. Insightful leaders communicate a purpose, meaning, and vision, and express a hopeful view of the future.
  4. Encourage innovation and risk-taking.Success will accrue to organizations that encourage their employees to think creatively and champion new ideas. That doesn’t mean everyone gets their own R&D budget, but it does mean that leaders give their people greater autonomy and license to explore customers’ needs while providing a fair, safe, and encouraging outlet for employees to propose new ideas. This new brand of leader also must be empathetic and understanding when risky new ideas don’t succeed. Innovative leaders spur imaginative and autonomous thinking and see challenges as learning opportunities.