The natural fit of emotional intelligence in family business (Part 2 of 2)

Kent Rhodes
Kent Rhodes

In my last blog post, I shared how Emotional Intelligence (EI) has become a core piece of the discussion about effective business leadership in recent years. I describe it as “the ability to monitor and understand the impact of emotions – from one’s self and others – on one’s own behavior and others’ behavior, all in a way that guides wise decision making.”

As a part of building this discussion, I am highlighting some recent research conducted by one of my graduate students at Pepperdine University, Emily Spivey, and how important it is for family businesses to be able to build in these insights as a part of good continuity planning for subsequent generations.

Emily was curious about the role emotional intelligence plays in how successful entrepreneurs build an organization from the ground up. The results of her work revealed Seven EI Qualities Important in for Entrepreneurial Success:

  1. Reading the room. Described by one study participant as the ability to understand “interpersonal dynamics that are taking place in a group or social context,” or by another as “understanding what people are experiencing at any given moment,” the importance of “reading a room” was identified as a characteristic of an emotionally intelligent leader necessary to effectively build an organization.
  2. Decision making. EI plays a role in the entrepreneur’s ability to make decisions, often quickly, creatively, and decisively, usually in the midst of uncertainty or under pressure. It even included their ability to accurately anticipate the responses and reactions of people around them and to adjust decisions as necessary.
  3. Hard leadership. EI plays a role in being able to lead in a crisis, including leading through brokenness, conflict or stress. In relationship to the uncertain and often chaotic nature of starting up an organization, study respondents talked about not only having the capacity to lead through hardship going on with other people, but the necessity of leading through their own personal challenges or conflicts as they came up. Managing and tolerating stress was also mentioned multiple times as key to effective leadership in the context of “hard leadership.”
  4. Risk taking. Another theme identified was the ability to express entrepreneurial leadership and take risks themselves, while simultaneously inspiring others to take risks as well. This role seems to be particularly important in terms of gaining financial stability by securing investors, loans, and financial security.
  5. Leadership in self and others. EI plays a role in being able to build leadership skills in others while simultaneously sustaining one’s own effective leadership over the long term. According to the entrepreneurs in the study, effective leadership includes both empowering and cultivating leadership in those around you and also having the self-perception to know your own leadership limitations or signs of burnout, and to course correct when mistakes were identified.
  6. Interaction. EI plays a role in being able to interact with others in a way that builds the confidence of people in their various roles and develops other leaders. The study respondents emphasized the importance of strong interpersonal relationships in starting the new venture.
  7. Trust. EI plays a role in trusting and building trust. This role of EI was discussed as an expression of emotionally intelligent leadership and also as an outcome. Emotionally effective leaders both trust themselves, and also inspire and build trust in others.
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