The Emotionally Intelligent Manager

Posted on November 14, 2010


I recently shared with the Accountant at our firm that it might be good if she was in a negative mood while working. While I said this in jest, there was an element of truth behind my remark. I made this comment shortly after reading The Emotionally Intelligent Manager by David R. Caruso & Peter Salovey.  Negative moods, I discovered, can be productive—particularly for those who are engaged in deductive reasoning problems, such as checking financial statements for errors. Positive moods, they contend, are more helpful for inductive problem solving where generating new and interesting ideas is needed. According to this line of thought it would be best to be in a positive mood if you are working on a new marketing plan and to be in a negative mood if you are proofing the marketing material.

This is just one of the practical nuggets about emotions Caruso & Salovey share in their book. They build the book around four emotional skills:

  1. Read People: Identifying Emotions
  2. Get in the Mood: Using Emotions
  3. Predict the Emotional Future: Understanding Emotions
  4. Do It with Feeling: Managing Emotions

One of the recurring themes throughout the book is the difference between “emotions” and “moods.” Moods, in the simplest definition, are “emotions” that last a long time.  Bad moods tend to have a negative impact on us, such as breaking down our resistance to temptation, moving us toward aggression and leading us toward increased procrastination. However, a sad mood can also help us formulate better-quality persuasive messages and arguments and assist us with detail-type work such as compiling a financial report.

Happy moods can be very productive because they can result in more creative solutions, thinking outside the box and the generation of new ideas. Furthermore, people with positive moods tend to be able to focus on the possibilities and see the big picture. A downside of happy moods, however, is that they often result in a greater number of problem-solving errors. This is one reason why negative moods or sadness can be good for an organization at the right time. Caruso and Salovey illustrate this by suggesting if a group is about to “seal the deal” that the group’s leader intentionally bring the mood of the group down a notch or two so that the group will be more apt to honestly consider the details and implications of the deal that may have been ignored during an upbeat brainstorming session.

Contrary to what many may believe about emotional intelligence, (EQ), it is not void of anger and the expression of emotion. While they state that displays of emotions, even positive emotions like joy, are often considered to be unprofessional, emotions are natural, normal, healthy and required for effective leadership.  EQ is the ability to feel, recognize and manage emotions. Caruso & Salovey do, however, put some distance between emotions and moods.

“Acting with our emotions is usually the smart choice,” they write, “acting out with our moods isn’t usually a good idea.” They contend that managers must learn to manage their emotions and help to manage the emotions of others. Using Franklin Roosevelt’s statement, “It is necessary for the President to be the nation’s number one actor,” they assert that the emotionally intelligent manager must display some acting skills in order to direct, guide and influence the direction of others. The manager, in these instances, learns how to re-create the emotions necessary for the moment. She also learns how to “put sadness aside” and move forward in leadership by getting in the right mood. Additional antidotes for the lack of EQ include writing about our emotions and regular exercise.

A few of my favorite quotes from The Emotionally Intelligent Manager are listed below. Additional quotes will occasionally appear in my Tweets at @jackwbruce.

Skills of emotional intelligence cannot replace technical expertise, general analytical intelligence, specific competencies, or experience.

Anger is always destructive and always leads to a negative outcome when we act on a feeling of anger that has no basis in the external world.

Feeling bad can be good and feeling good can be bad.

The emotionally intelligent have a rich emotional vocabulary—they can express their feelings with descriptive words.

Being an emotionally intelligent mangers means that there will be times when you must open yourself up to strong feelings, both positive and negative.

Rational thinking cannot occur in the absence of emotion, (Damasio)