Project Management Institute

The secret of stellar managers

by Sarah Fister Gale * photos by Anthony Gray


Richard Boyatzis, Ph.D., Professor in the Departments of Organizational Behavior and Psychology at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Smart people don't always make great leaders. If a person's emotional intelligence isn't as high as their mental abilities, they may lack self-awareness and the ability to tune into the needs of others. Emotional intelligence consists of a set of 25 traits that enables people to use their emotions appropriately and to recognize and respond to the emotional needs of others, says Richard Boyatzis, Ph.D., a professor in the Departments of Organizational Behavior and Psychology at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA. He also is a founding member of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence.

executive summary

img Great leaders inspire their teams through motivating and engaging behavior.

img When managers are in crisis, problems often can be traced back to deficiencies in emotional intelligence.

img Through performance reviews, training and ongoing feedback, most managers can improve their emotional IQ.

Those 25 traits—including self-control, optimism, achievement orientation, empathy and teamwork—are divided into four clusters:

  • Self-awareness
  • Social awareness
  • Self-management
  • Relationship management.

“If you are an outstanding performer, chances are you frequently demonstrate at least half of the traits from all of those clusters,” Dr. Boyatzis says.

Spreading the Message

Emotional intelligence first became a hot business topic in 1995, when Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., published his book, Emotional Intelligence. The basic message was that success is strongly influenced by personal qualities, such as perseverance, self-control and the ability to get along with others. The emotional intelligence mantra rang true with business leaders, who flocked to a flurry of seminars and books on the subject.

“Since emotions precede cognitive functions, they are a critical part of determining what we think,” says Dr. Boyatzis, who co-authored Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence with Dr. Goleman and Annie McKee, Ph.D.

Emotional intelligence is the counterbalance to intelligence, according to Michael Callans, president of Wonderlic Consulting, a cognitive testing and selection consulting company in Libertyville, Ill., USA. “It's a more important predictor of life success,” he says.

Without emotional intelligence, a project manager will not be in tune with the emotional needs of the team. “When a leader's emotional response isn't appropriate for the situation, followers lose confidence,” Mr. Callans says, citing the example of how U.S. presidential candidate Howard Dean's excited outburst at a political rally deflated his standing in the polls. Being seen as hotheaded, knee-jerk or sappy can have similar negative effects, he says. “It all impacts how others perceive you, and their willingness to follow your leadership.”

Inspiring the Team

For project managers, the ability to inspire and motivate helps them achieve strategic change, says Galba Bright, principal consultant at Galba Bright & Associates, an emotional intelligence training and coaching service in St. James, Jamaica. “To be effective, project managers need to understand how their emotions affect them in their work and how emotions affect their project team members,” he says. “By becoming more self-aware and managing your emotions effectively, you will inspire your team to higher heights.”

Mr. Bright says emotional intelligence is critical to ongoing career success for project managers. “With all due respect to formal project management training, once you've attained a certain professional threshold, an investment in developing your emotional intelligence is by far the best way to leverage your career,” he says. “I expect that the top performers in 21st century will be those with high emotional intelligence.”

High emotional intelligence can mean the difference between mediocrity and great success—a manager's ability to motivate and impact people determines how they are perceived and embraced. “People are drawn to leaders because they are inspired by them or motivated by them, not because they gave them raises or good projects to work on,” says Connie Wayne, manager of executive development for Eaton Corp., Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

A large part of emotional intelligence entails knowing how to identify and develop talent in others and how to connect with them through coaching and mentoring. To do that, leaders must first recognize their own emotional strengths and weaknesses. “You start with yourself so you can transfer it to others,” Ms. Wayne says. “You can't help your team unless you are in touch with what's important to you.”

Molding the Talent

Senior management at Eaton believes the ability to identify and mold great talent is critical to the company's success, and the company relies on its managers to have the emotional intelligence to make that happen. The company dedicates a large section of its leadership development program to emotional intelligence training. Rising managers work on self-awareness and how to connect with and coach others. “We believe that leadership is not about the project, it's about the people,” Ms. Wayne says. “If the leader gets a team engaged and excited we see better results.”

The good news is that unlike a person's IQ, emotional intelligence is a learnable trait, says Katherine L.Y. Green, an emotional intelligence coach at Green Consulting Group in Washington D.C., USA. Although she rarely gets calls asking for emotional intelligence training, Ms. Green says most of the problems her clients face can be traced back to deficiencies in their ability to work with people. “People can be great independent contributors, but they may not have the skills to work with peers at a senior level,” she says.

Ms. Green often works with clients who have been promoted to management positions and don't have the people skills to communicate effectively. Through intense sessions, performance reviews and feedback, however, she can often improve their emotional IQ within weeks, assuming the client has a personal interest or investment in changing their behavior.

Making the Change

Like Eaton, Lehman Brothers, the New York, N.Y., USA-based investment banking giant, sees the value of emotional intelligence and incorporates it into a significant chunk of its four-year-old leadership development program.

From Buzzword to Core Competency

While emotional intelligence has been a business trend for a decade, today's managers are far more likely to be judged on their skills in the area than their predecessors, says Katherine L.Y. Green, an emotional intelligence coach with Green Consulting Group. She attributes the growing demand for high emotional IQ to several changing factors in the workplace:

Downsizing, restructuring and reorganization mean fewer people doing more work. Managers must be able to motivate team members who are expected to work harder and faster under more stressful conditions. “In this environment you can no longer get away with poor communication skills,” she says. This change is especially tough for project managers who have to lead people they have no direct authority over. “Leaders who don't have direct power over their team members have to use influence to appeal to their people,” she says. More than ever before, managers have to be in tune to the emotional needs of the team and know what will inspire them to get the project done.

Litigation for intolerance or harassment in the workplace has led to a demand for greater emotional awareness and sensitivity. “The workplace is more diverse than it was 20 years ago and the expectation for civil behavior is much greater,” Ms. Green says.

Increased competition for fewer positions has given leverage to those with superior people skills. “If there are two people with the same qualifications,” she says, “the person with better communication skills will get the job.”

Since emotions precede cognitive functions, they are a critical part of determining what we think.

—Richard Boyatzis, Ph.D.


“Lehman business results are widely viewed to be a consequence of the culture, and it's through leadership that we articulate and pass on the culture,” says Janis Becker, program manager at the company. “One of the core elements of our leadership initiative is to build self awareness and gain a deeper understanding of who you are as leader—your style, your strengths and how you impact others. We bring in Dr. Boyatzis for one module of our program to work with our managers to help them look at their leadership from a very personal perspective. Participants reflect on their own dreams and visions and how they can connect with their work and their people at a deeper, more personal level.”

Ms. Becker reports dramatic changes in a few leaders, who have altered the way they work with employees as a result of the course. “I get more out of what I am doing when I am connecting with people and I believe others get more out of their work as well,” says program participant Gary Weinstein, managing director, chief administrative officer of investment banking at Lehman. “I spend more time calling people, bringing them in and thanking them. I make a conscious effort to recognize and appreciate people's efforts. People really respond to this in a positive way. I see it in their faces and I see it in their performance.”

The workshop also leads you to focus on your self-image—and how your perception of yourself may be different from your employees', says John Phizackerley, co-head of European equities, in the London office of Lehman Brothers Europe.

Mr. Phizackerley believes that all leaders could benefit from developing their emotional intelligence or simply becoming more aware of how they connect with people. “Invest time in honest self-examination of what you really stand for professionally, what your vision really is, and how you physically communicate this to your employees,” he says. “To get the best out of people you need to be seen to have a practical vision, to have optimistic goals, and to show that you have a realistic understanding of the task and the environment in which they operate.” PM

Sarah Fister Gale is a freelance business journalist based in Chicago, Ill., USA.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.




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