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In recent years companies begin to realize the pivotal position of emotional intelligence and attach more importance on leader's emotional intelligence development. Actually the emotional intelligence enables leaders better perform in the workplace. This essay will come to an understanding of emotional intelligence on the basis of the author's opinion. The first part of the essay includes the history of emotional intelligence, its definition and the dimensions. The second part of the essay will demonstrate the implication of emotional intelligence in service operation leadership.
Key words: emotional intelligence, service operation leadership, better performance
Emotional intelligence has been one of the most popular fields to be developed in educational and psychological communities over the past few decades. Evidence suggested that cognitive ability was not sufficient for the success of a service operation leadership. Especially in today's society, challenges and competitions coexist, companies call for innovation and reformation. In such a complex environment, service operations leadership is of critical importance in terms of service organizational performance for every single service organization. Meanwhile, the strength of the service operations leadership has a close relationship with emotional intelligence. Leaders could score high on traditional intelligence tests yet do poorly in other areas in the workplace such as social relations and self-assessment. Therefore, for a service operational leader, it is unavoidable but practical to strengthen emotional intelligence as well as to enhance leadership.
Historic Development of Emotional Intelligence
As early as in 1920, the Columbia University professor EL Thorndike first proposed the concept of social intelligence. He stated that people with high social intelligence "has the ability to understand and manage others, and can act wisely when building relationship with others. And in 1926, the first intelligence test named George Washington Social Intelligence Test was released to the public. The test questions included identifying the emotional state of the characters in the picture and judging the problems in the interpersonal relationship, etc. However, in the next few decades the effort in this field made by the psychological community paused down because most of them attached more importance on the research of IQ test (the ability of mathematic, logic, language and spatial ability) which assumed to decide one's learning ability and further influence the development of work performance in the future.
Until 1983, Howard Gardner's Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences introduced the brilliant idea of "multiple intelligences" that included both interpersonal intelligence which is "the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations and desires of other people" and intrapersonal intelligence which Gardner defined as the capacity to understand oneself, to have an effective working model of one self and to use such information effectively in regulating one's own life, to appreciate one's feelings, fears and motivations. In Gardner's view, traditional types of intelligence, such as IQ, fail to fully explain cognitive ability. He believed the definition of IQ which focused mainly on mathematic and language need to be substantially modified because IQ only has a high positive correlation to school test performance (the higher IQ, the better homework performance). However, IQ does not have significant relation to other aspects such as the work performance, feelings or life satisfaction. Gardner added several intelligences in the idea of "multiple intelligence", including music, sports, self-assessment and the ability to understand others. It was the last two intelligences that made the concept of social intelligence once again became highly valued by educational and psychological communities.
However, the concept of emotional intelligence was not introduced until a summer's day in the chat between two psychology professors, Peter Salovey, now dean of Yale College and professor of psychology at Yale University, and John Mayer, now professor at the University of New Hampshire. They were talking about the cognitive and emotional research and discussing a politician who was smart but acted dumb, which led to the conclusion that "smart decision making requires more than the intellect as measured by traditional IQ". Later they focused emotional intelligence on the abilities to perceive and use emotions as part of thinking.
The one who actually made the term emotional intelligence out of academic circle and be well accepted by the public as a daily used term was Harvard University professor Daniel Goleman and his book Emotional Intelligence which was the bestseller around countries. His opinion set off a rush to emotional intelligence globally. Goleman discovered that one's emotional intelligence has an imperative impact on his performance in the workplace emotional intelligence either as an employee or as a leader and as the position gets higher, emotional intelligence's influence gets greater. In addition, emotional intelligence's impact is even more obvious on certain types of work such as marketing, sales and customer service.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Mayer and Salovey first defined the term Emotional Intelligence by merely focusing on perceiving and regulating emotion without thinking about feelings. Then they reviewed and refined their earlier definition, expanded its content as "the ability to perceive and express emotion, assimilate emotion in thought, understand and reason with emotion, and regulate emotion in the self and others"
Goleman (1998) described emotional intelligence as a person's self-awareness, self-confidence, self-control, commitment and integrity, and a person's ability to communicate, influence, initiate change and accept change
There exist many different understandings of emotional intelligence by different psychologists. These are emotional intelligence definitions from two authorities. Even though the definitions were expressed in different words, they are similar to some extent that emotional intelligence is the ability to assess and manage one's own emotional behavior while able to perceive and understand other's emotions. Finally is the ability to communicate and influence others through a good and close relationship. In the following part, I will discuss my understanding on emotional intelligence in terms of five dimensions proposed by Goleman.
Dimensions of Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is a set of competencies and personal traits. These skills contribute to a person's ability to manage and monitor his or her own emotions, to correctly gauge the emotional state of others and to influence opinions (Caudron, 1999; Goleman, 1998). According to Goleman, my understanding of the term "Emotional Intelligence" includes five dimensions:
Self- awareness is the ability for us to explore our individual personalities, behavior, beliefs and value systems. Because we have different reactions to the external environments, so when we assess our emotional behavior or feelings, we will compare our current behavior to our own standards and believes to gain a better awareness of ourselves. It is the keystone of emotional intelligence (Goleman, 1995). Self-awareness may include self-confidence and independence. Being confident and independent, a person can be assertive and responsible to make decision. A feeling of self-confidence and independence also enables a person to have the capacity to deal with unexpected challenges and issues.
Self-regulation is the ability to think before acting and control negative impulses and moods in check. It can also be thought of as the successful integration of emotion and cognition resulting in appropriate behavior. Self-regulation, also known as self-management, includes aspects such as maintaining standards of honesty and integrity (trustworthiness), taking responsibility for one's performance (conscientiousness), being comfortable with novel ideas and approaches (innovation), and handling change (adaptability). As for adaptability, John Mayer and David Caruso commented that "Manager who can think about emotions accurately and clearly may often be better able to anticipate, cope with, and effectively manage change".
Motivation is the emotional tendency guiding or facilitating the action toward a desired goal and motivation can elicit, dominate and support certain behavior to achieve goals. It's the essential and crucial element in setting and attaining goals. Optimism is the imperative component of motivation. It is not about believing everything will be fine without effort. Optimism is more about the emotion dealing with danger and seizing opportunities for the organization. When dealing with challenge, a leader should be positive and actively find out other ways to defuse the crisis. It is not sufficient for a leader to solve difficulties with an optimistic attitude. At the same time, a leader should be sensitive enough to dig out the opportunity brought by the challenges and take advantage of them to achieve tremendous success.
Empathy is the understanding of the feelings of others, their concerns and needs, feelings, perspectives. It can be broken down into seeking understanding, development of others' abilities, leveraging diversity to allow new ideas and opportunities to be heard, and being politically aware of a team's needs and power structure (Goleman, 1998). Empathy is the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes; to see the world through those who are different from us. (Obama)
Empathy is closely related to compassion, but not sympathy. It requires you to see the world from another person's view and get emotional information about them and their position. By collecting and analyzing information about other people's feelings, you are able to better understand them.
Social skill is essential to emotional intelligence. It is the ability to facilitate interaction and building relationships with others. Leaders have to get along well with other people in the workplace, inducing interesting responses and influencing others with your own charisma. Good social skill enables leaders to reduce conflict and increase participation or assistance in obtaining information or completing tasks.
These are five dimensions in emotional intelligence and their components and implications in my understanding. Next I will go deep into the significance between emotional intelligence and service operations leadership.
The Implications for Service Operations Leadership
In order to illustrate why emotional intelligence is importance to service operations leadership, two cases will be displayed to demonstrate the pivotal role emotional intelligence play in the leadership.
Many Australian fire services are predominated by "command and control" operational leadership. Because the Fire Service's primary role is for the protection of life and property. For this, the appropriate management style is 'command and control'. Under such leadership style, the balance between "task focus" and "people focus" is broken. More attention is paid on task focus rather than people. Fire service employees feel undervalued, unmotivated and suffer low morale because leaders ignore the fact that "task" is achieved by people even though it is more important. The impact of this situation is that large percent of employees are detached which means that they only want to finish the minimum work so that they would not be laid out, stated in a recent survey by the Gallop Poll.
A leader without emotional intelligence might lead to this circumstance. The leader without crucial emotional competencies such as empathy, self-assessment, social skills or flexibility is unaware of the importance of balances the two tasks. This kind of leader cannot be effective in decision-making or mission-assigning. Fortunately, only 3% of the emergency response activities are fires and emergencies, which mean the other 97% of operating leadership can be flexible and emotional to achieve effective management.
Also leaders who have better developed emotional intelligence will be much more effective in winning the hearts and minds of employees. After realizing the challenge of uneven balance, Fire Services pay more attention to leaders' emotional intelligence. Leaders began to show consideration to the fire new fighters entering the fire service. The new entrants usually come from diverse backgrounds, ages, educational levels and nationalities and have different believes. Be empathy and try to understand the employees' situation can lead to close relationship between leader and employees.
Frank Sims was a leader in Roadway Express Inc. and he worried about the increasing damage problem on loading process and during the transportation would affect the relationship with customers. In light with the current situation, Sims recalled a workshop on emotional intelligence and realized that the dockworker and drivers should understand how important loading the trucks was for their company. The other day, he called the senior transportation manager, the leader of one of the company's most important customers to get help in videotaping and employee interview. All these materials were used to help the Roadway Express employees to have a fully understanding about the whole business process between the company and the customer, the business model and business mission. The dockworkers and drivers were impressed and they began to have a good grasp of the role they played in the business process. They became more cautious and serious when loading and transporting.
Because the services provided by service companies are intangible, they cannot be felt or touched. As a result, it is even more difficult for employees to realize how important their performance will be in the business operation system. Sims put forward an excellent idea to mobilize the enthusiasm of the employees and make their company better off. They do so by using their emotional intelligence to create an atmosphere in which people want to do and be their best. High emotional intelligence help service operation leader to instill followers a sense of goals and the importance of the task, emphasize enthusiasm, flexibility and organization identity.
Other benefits include:
Leaders with high emotional intelligence in service organization may often be better able to anticipate, cope with and effectively manage change in the environment full of uncertainty and revolution. This type of leader can adjust themselves according to the environment, will not panic and calm down quickly, especially in the scenes dealing with customer complaint and service recovery.
Leaders who do not have high emotional intelligence or are unwilling to develop it might have some difficulties in establishing relationships with their bosses, colleague, subordinates and customers.
As being a leader, it calls for the ability to inspire, to motivate, to develop subordinates by diagnosing their development needs and to encourage behavioral changes (Velsor, et al.,2010).
Emotional intelligence enables a leader to identify and analyze own strength and weakness, why he is the way he is and come to understand the influence on people around (Dijk and Freedman, 2007)(Velsor, Mccauley & Ruderman, 2010).
A leader in service operation organization has to have
DIJK, C. F.-V. & FREEDMAN, J. 2007. Differentiating emotional intelligence in leadership. Journal of Leadership Studies, 1, 8-20.