HBR 10 Must Reads on Emotional Intelligence: A book review by Bob Morris

HBR 10 Must EIHBR 10 Must Reads on Emotional Intelligence
Various Contributors
Harvard Business Review Press (2015)

How and why the most effective leaders “have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence”

This is one in a series of volumes that anthologizes what the editors of the Harvard Business Review consider to be “must reads” in a given business subject area, in this instance emotional intelligence. I have no quarrel with any of their selections, each of which is eminently deserving of inclusion. Were all of these ten articles purchased separately as reprints, the total cost would be at least $60 and the practical value of any one of them exceeds that. Given the fact that Amazon now sells this one for only $14.97, that’s quite a bargain. The same is true of volumes in other series such as HBR Guide to…, Harvard Business Review on…, and Harvard Business Essentials. I also think there is great benefit derived from the convenience of having a variety of perspectives and insights gathered in a single volume.

In all of the volumes in the HBR 10 Must Read series that I have read thus far, the authors and their HBR editors make skillful use of several reader-friendly devices that include “Idea in Brief” and “Idea in Action” sections, checklists with and without bullet points, boxed mini-commentaries (some of which are “guest” contributions from other sources), and graphic charts and diagrams that consolidate especially valuable information. These and other devices facilitate, indeed accelerate frequent review later of key points later.

Those who read this volume will gain valuable information, insights, and counsel that will help them to monitor and channel their moods and emotions; make smart (i.e. empathic, “people”) decisions; manage conflict and regulate emotions within their team; react to tough situations with circumspection and resilience; better understand their strengths, weaknesses, needs, values, and goals; and develop emotional agility.

Although the first use of the term “emotional intelligence” is usually attributed to Wayne Payne’s doctoral thesis, “A Study of Emotion: Developing Emotional Intelligence” (1985), Daniel Goleman is generally credited with doing more than anyone else has to establish and enrich emotional intelligence as a key element in terms of both personal growth and professional development. In an essay that serves as an introduction to the other material in this volume, “What Makes a Great Leader?” (HBR, June 1996), Goleman observes that “the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial; way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as [begin italics] emotional intelligence [end italics]…my research, along with recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.”

In the other nine essays,

o Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee explain why primal leadership is the “hidden driver of great performance”
o Joel Brockner explains why it is so difficult to be “fair
o Andrew Campbell, Jo Whitehead, and Sydney Finkelstein explain why so many good leaders make such bad decisions
o Vanessa Urch Druskat and Steven B. Wolff explain how to build the emotional intelligence of groups
o Christine Porath and Christine Pearson examine the price of civility and explain why and how it hurts morale — and the bottom line
o Diane L. Coutou explains how resiliency works
o Susan David and Christina Congleton discuss emotional agility: How effective leaders manage their negative thoughts and feelings
o Jay M. Jackman and Myra H. Strober explain fear of feedback and how to overcome it
o Kerry A. Bunker, Kathy E. Kram, and Sharon Ting on delaying promotions of fast trackers: “the young and the clueless”

Here are two other perspectives on emotional intelligence:

“Highly sensitive people are too often perceived as weaklings or damaged goods. To feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness, it is the trademark of the truly alive and compassionate. It is not the empath who is broken, it is society that has become dysfunctional and emotionally disabled. There is no shame in expressing your authentic feelings. Those who are at times described as being a ‘hot mess’ or having ‘too many issues’ are the very fabric of what keeps the dream alive for a more caring, humane world. Never be ashamed to let your tears shine a light in this world.” Anthon St. Maarten

“People who seek psychotherapy for psychological, behavioral or relationship problems tend to experience a wide range of bodily complaints…The body can express emotional issues a person may have difficulty processing consciously…I believe that the vast majority of people don’t recognize what their bodies are really telling them. The way I see it, our emotions are music and our bodies are instruments that play the discordant tunes. But if we don’t know how to read music, we just think the instrument is defective.” Charlette Mikulka

I agree with Goleman that emotional intelligence can be learned. “The process is not easy. It takes time and, most of all, commitment. But the benefits that come from having a well-developed emotional intelligence, for the individual and for the organization, make it worth the effort.”

Those who wish to explore the subject in much greater depth are urged to check out two of Goleman’s books: Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (2003), co-authored with Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, and Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (2005) as well as Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (2009), co-authored by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.

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