Emotional and spiritual intelligence: Ways to transform leaders and organizations

“We are part of the whole which we call the universe, but it is an optical delusion of our mind that we think we are separate. This separateness is like a prison for us. Our job is to widen the circle of our compassion so we feel connected with all people and situations.”   

— Albert Einstein

In June 2001 I was inspired by my father to write an article about emotional intelligence.

Today, I am again inspired by him. Dad died two weeks ago. He lived his life with integrity and clarity. He was a feisty Irishman with gifts for storytelling, hospitality and generosity.

Life for dad was not a spectator sport. He was fully engaged. He was generous with his time, his talent and his heart. He was a good father and an astute businessman whose mantra was: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Dad understood the value of emotional and spiritual intelligence long before the concepts were born. He knew what all successful leaders know. We are connected to something bigger than ourselves. Having the capacity for authentic relationships separates the extraordinary leader from the ordinary.

Emotional intelligence

IQ and technical skills are merely the “threshold capabilities” for success. EI or EQ (emotional intelligence) is twice as significant as IQ and technical skills combined as a predictor of success….. “My analysis showed that emotional intelligence played an increasingly important role at the highest levels of the company,” he said. “The higher the rank of the person considered to be a star performer, the more emotional intelligence capabilities showed up as the reason for his or her effectiveness.”

Goleman identified five components of emotional intelligence that are critical for leadership success.

  • Self awareness: The ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions, and drives as well as their effect on others.
  • Self regulation: The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods as well as the ability to suspend judgment. To think before acting.
  • Motivation: A passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status and a propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence.
  • Empathy: The ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people and the skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions.
  • Social skill: Proficiency in managing relationships and building networks and an ability to find common ground and build rapport.

Spiritual intelligence

While articles and books about emotional intelligence began to appear in the early 1980s, the emergence of the concept of spiritual intelligence appeared in the literature nearly a decade later. We continue to appreciate that our awareness of the possibilities as human beings continues to evolve.

Spiritual intelligence is a term used to indicate a spiritual correlate to IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and EQ (Emotional Quotient). Like EQ, SQ is becoming more mainstream in scientific inquiry and philosophical/psychological discussion. Models for developing and measuring spiritual intelligence are also increasingly used in corporate settings, by companies such as Nokia, Unilever, McKinsey, Shell, Coca-Cola, Hewlett Packard, Merck Pharmaceuticals, and Starbucks.

Steven Covey, a renown business author, identified spiritual intelligence as a key component of leadership. He wrote, “spiritual intelligence is the central and most fundamental of all the intelligences, because it becomes the source of guidance for the other(s)…”

Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall (2003) define spiritual intelligence as the “intelligence in which we can place our actions and our lives in a wider, richer meaning-giving context. It is the intelligence with which we can assess that one course of action or one life-path is more meaningful than another.”

Hunger for meaning

In our work with leaders, we have noticed an increasing hunger for meaning in the leader’s work and life. We are creating richer experiences for leaders to access and develop their spiritual intelligence in response to that hunger, even when we are not using the language of spiritual intelligence. In a recent leadership retreat, a colleague facilitated an exercise at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Participants were asked to find paintings that were depicted on postcards. They were asked to spend a little less than an hour viewing the painting and engaging in personal reflection with this question: “What does this painting say to you about your work and what you might do differently”?

The invitation is rare. Leaders long for the opportunity and don’t usually know it until they are engaged. Once they enter into the process and learn to go deeper into their spiritual intelligence, transformation occurs in and among them. The leader benefits. The organization benefits. Developing skills in emotional intelligence and spiritual intelligence will make a difference for leaders and organizations that want to evolve and grow.

Thank you

And so, Dad, thank you once again, for the lifelong lessons. Thank you for getting it. You were ahead of your time in your own understanding of the importance of emotional and spiritual intelligence. I promise that I will always remember your mantra:

“People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” n

Karen Vernal is the president of Vernal Management Consultants LLC, a Milwaukee-based leadership and organizational firm dedicated to “igniting the spirit and skills of leaders.” The company is one of two firms in the nation to be certified in emotional intelligence through the Institute for Health and Human Potential. For additional information, visit www.vernalmgmt.com.

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