03.05.2012 Leadership and Leadership Development, Talent Management and Development No Comments

Can Leadership be Learned?

In last week’s blog, I wrote about the difference that leadership can make in an organization, not just in terms of motivation, but in tangible, bottom-line performance, sales, and profitability. A reasonable question that arises, then, is, “Can leadership be learned, or is it innate?”

A new white paper published by the TRACOM Group, the organization long-known for its research and development of the Social Style model and its applicability for individuals and teams, looks afresh at performance results that can be attributed to EQ, or Emotional Intelligence, and its practice by leaders. “3G EQ” is a growing body of research that organizations from many industries and sectors are applying to achieve improved, and impressive, performance results.

The white paper’s author, Dr. Casey Mulqueen, describes the differences between “Emotional Intelligence” (EQ) and “Behavioral Intelligence” (BEQ). EQ is an internal process with two elements. The first focuses on Self-awareness; the second on Awareness of Others. BEQ operates in the world, where people and interactions exist. BEQ elements are behaviors and actions that can be seen and heard; EQ elements are invisible to the world, and harder to measure or observe.

Elements of EQ as relating to the Self include Emotion Awareness, Self-insight, and Self-confidence. These are likely the necessary prerequisites for the BEQ corollaries of Self-control, Stress Management, Conscientiousness, and Optimism. Emotional Intelligence abilities that relate to Others are Emotion Perception, Empathy/Openness, and Listening; Behavioral Intelligence skills relating to Others include Building Relationships, Influencing Others, Motivating Others, Flexibility, and Innovativeness.

One thing I know is that if you can observe something, you can measure it. If you can measure it, you can improve it. A key part of my job, as an executive coach,  a manager–and a parent!–is to gather information and feed it back into the system, whether that system is an organization or an individual. Awareness creates insight. But that’s the beginning, not the end, of a development cycle. Feedback on results or the perceptions of others can tell you HOW you’re coming across, but not WHY you’re getting those results. Skill development requires both insight on perceptions, and action on that insight.

Can you have high EQ, and low BEQ. Absolutely. We all know people who have said , “But that’s not what I meant” when dealing with the fallout from not considering the unintended impact of their actions on people or their performance. (Not that I’ve ever said that!) The good news: most people are usually more than willing to give others the benefit of the doubt, and another chance. But when that lack of consideration–that low EQ–becomes the norm, people start to consider their options and dust off their resumés. People will tolerate a toxic climate for only so long before deciding that they need to take action, whether that action is to quit and leave, or, worse, quit and stay!

Can you have high BEQ with low EQ.  Well, the research says, “Yes.” In other words, you can “fake it ’til you make it!” But you have to move towards the ‘making it’ part. The good news is that by doing the behaviors of BEQ, it actually helps improve and develop one’s EQ.

What I like about the BEQ idea is its congruence with that model, of feedback leading to self-awareness leading to insight leading to developing a repertoire of actions and choices to be applied to different situations as needed, all cycling back to improved EQ and BEQ in more and more circumstances.

Having skill-based choices, and developing the discretion of how and when to apply the appropriate option to each unique situation, is at the heart of what effective leaders do to develop their people and organizations–and themselves. And these choices can be observed, learned, practiced, and improved.


(Here’s a link to TRACOM’s White Paper on Behavioral EQ: http://docs.tracomcorp.com/TPD/Whitepaper/BEQ_Whitepaper.pdf )

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