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Why Does Emotional Intelligence Matter?

Loyalty, Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

People have a natural sense of fairness that they bring to work every day. Most reasonable people know that organizations need to have rules so that processes will work and customers will keep the cash flowing that keeps the business alive. But just like customers, when an individual’s internal rules of fairness are violated by company policy or behavior, they usually switch off any sense of loyalty.

An incident with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick regarding driver fares is a great example of a perceived rule violation. Kalanick got into a heated argument with an Uber driver who felt that the company doesn’t care about drivers making a decent living. The video went viral because viewers related to the perceived fairness violation.

A fairness rule violation by a front-line manager can create an even worse situation for workers. It feels like there is no accountability; the manager seems to have freedom to do whatever it takes to get results. It feels like the company leaders don’t really care, no matter how often they say, “our people are our greatest asset.”

When those feelings take their toll on workers’ loyalty, the impact can be serious and take on a life of their own. People begin to measure every company action on a ‘fairness’ scale rather than on business need. A critical element of Emotional Intelligence –motivation -- has been compromised, and people drop down to the compliance level of performance. They feel the manager cannot be trusted and they need to cover their backsides to protect themselves. “Take no risks…you can’t depend on the manager” becomes the overriding thought.

Why all these references to ‘feelings’? We’re adults, doesn’t reason override feelings? Should a company care if its managers are not trusted as long as they get results? Should a company concern itself with how employees feel about working there? When you ask it that way, everyone knows the right answer. So, what is missing in this picture?

Leadership. While managers control, leaders inspire. Leaders understand that willing followers are ever so much better than compliant ones who measure the fairness of every single thing they are asked to do. Willing followers seek better ways to meet customer needs; compliant ones do as they’re told. The difference is night and day.

If loyalty depends on leadership, and leaders understand they must win the hearts as well as the minds of followers, where do we start?

It’s the little things that make the difference

The list of little things is long:

  • how people are treated every day is overwhelmingly important.

  • how they get information that affects their work,

  • how the leader makes decisions,

  • how contributions are valued

  • how feedback is provided

  • how routine conflict is handled

All of these aspects of leadership are imprinted on the followers – on their hearts and minds. Paradoxically, the little things are big things.

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