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Emotional Intelligence and Volkswagen

Emotional intelligence is another way of describing and/or measuring habits of the mind. Emotional intelligence skills can be learned by anyone willing to first become self-aware then set goals to strengthen areas of weakness or address competencies that are out of balance with opposing competencies.   For instance, if an individual is strong in the area of assertiveness but weak on empathy, it is possible this individual would manifest as a bit of a tyrant.

EQ –I 2.0 model of emotional intelligence measures 15 competencies.   One of the subscales is Social Responsibility. In my past work coaching leaders using the instrument, at times I have skimmed over the social responsibility subset. Many leaders will say they are so busy with the activities of their positions that they don’t have much time to focus on social responsibility.   Fair enough, I would say.

However, keep in mind that emotional intelligence is a cultivated mindset. Often seemingly insignificant behaviors are indicative of a larger pattern. According to the 2.0 model, the social responsibility subset explores whether you likely uphold the moral and ethical compass in your leadership approach and often place your teams goals ahead of your own agenda. You may also contribute/make a difference in society. (from EQ 2.0 Leadership report).

“I act in an environmentally friendly way.” (Question #11, EQ-I 2.0)

The recent admission that a system-wide strategy sought to alter emission controls on Volkswagen cars is an abject failure in social responsibility.   In this case, the “team” is the world as a whole and “own agenda” is the policies at Volkswagen. It all starts with the leadership and ignoring the parameters of social responsibility perhaps at the most basic level weakened the habit of mind around doing what is right.

Leaders get to the top by relying on what got them there. Yet without taking a wide view of all of the roles that a leader must pay attention to, mistakes with far-reaching implications loom in the shadows.   Emotional intelligence sometimes is often regarded as a “soft skill” paling in comparison to other data-driven decisions making skills.

Self-awareness is tricky. Sometimes it doesn’t lead to change. One can be vaguely aware of a weak skill but not see it as relevant let alone have any motivation to address it.   That is where a strong relationship between a client and a coach can really make a difference.   Helping a client develop emotional intelligence can be like sharpening the corrective lens at the eye doctor- the lens is adjusted until finally the patient can read the eye chart.

It will take a long time before Volkswagen is trusted again. The consequences of ignoring social responsibility do tend to reverberate for a long time.   It is an EQ competency that should not be dismissed. The world doesn’t look kindly when the curtains are pulled back and we find a disregard for the greater good.

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