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4 Ways to Tell if Your Boss Is Really Emotionally Intelligent (and Not Just Faking It)

If your boss is faking these behaviors, he’s the greatest actor since Tom Hanks.

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BY Marcel Schwantes - 14 Mar 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Ever wonder whether your boss has a high degree of emotional intelligence (EQ)? To really find out, you'd need to measure your boss's current emotional competencies against the set standard of those prolific bosses that display off-the-charts EQ.

Doing this the right way would obviously require a feedback instrument. Unless you're in an HR or leadership development capacity with this as your initiative, who's got time for that?

On the flip side, you could just read further and use your best judgment to answer this question: "Does my boss displays these qualities of emotional intelligence?"

 

The EQ Competencies

I've looked over several emotional intelligence assessments to ascertain the most visible competencies you want in your leaders. While there are many to choose from, I settled on the lesser-known, Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Assessment (SEI), which measures eight key leadership and life skills, and puts these key competencies into the context of important life and work outcomes.

At the risk of sounding too scientific and boring my audience to a catatonic state, I've chosen out of the eight competencies what SEI research calls the "most powerful" for success in today's business environment. They are: Exercise Optimism, Engage Intrinsic Motivation, Pursue Noble Goals, and Increase Empathy. (if you want to know the full eight competencies, click here)

 

Exercise Optimism

This EQ competency means that your boss is consistently hopeful and proactive about creating possibilities and seeking solutions. Displaying these at a high level means you're working for a boss with a mindset of positivity that's switched to "on."

 

Engage Intrinsic Motivation

While it's noteworthy that any person with emotional intelligence can display this competency (or any of the rest) for internal drive and productivity to happen, bosses displaying it at a high level will trigger intrinsic motivation in their workers by doing these things:

• Involving their employees in work that has purpose, meaning, and lasting impact.

• Allowing their employees to see, feel, and experience that the time they're putting in is making a difference in the lives of their customers.

• Giving their employees access to customers so they can see firsthand the human impact their work makes.

• Letting employees take ownership of their work by allowing them to give and share input into common goals and values.

 

Pursue Noble Goals

Questions you'd want to ask yourself about your boss for this section would entail: "Does my boss have a sense of vision for directing the team, project, or company toward a commonly shared goal?" And, "Does my boss have a sense of purpose that helps him or her make the best decisions?" The competency of Noble Goals is hugely important because it gives a leader a sense of direction and aligns the day-to-day choices he or she makes at work to long-term choices that carry a vision forward. Stated simply, a Noble Goal is about putting your emotional intelligence into action for positive change.

 

Increase Empathy

Does your boss recognize and appropriately respond to others' emotions? This EQ competence allows smart leaders to understand others and build strong emotional connections. Case in point: Global training giant Development Dimensions International (DDI) assessed over 15,000 leaders to determine which conversational skills have the highest impact on overall performance. Of all the skills, which was the most critical driver? You guessed it: Empathy. Specifically, the ability to listen and respond with empathy.

 

Final Thoughts

If you work in an environment where leaders display such competencies, congratulations. You may want to keep your day job for a while.

Do your part by showing initiative and partnering with your boss in a collaborative and enthusiastic manner. His or her relational and leadership skills will shine over time, but get used to the spotlight being shined on you instead (for producing work you're proud of).

For new employees assessing long-term culture fit, these EQ competencies should play out early on during your onboarding. Give it some time, and engage your boss by showing interest and curiosity in your new role, the team, and the mission (and less on you and your career path).