You Better Get Working on This Now

Just because something has the same name, is there equivalence? 

Recently, while running an emotional intelligence training, I had a participant come up to me, obviously disturbed. 

We had just distributed the results of the EQi 2.0 Leadership Self-Assessment that we use in the leadership development program for high potential talent, and the young lady was not happy with how she had scored herself.

“Something is wrong with this assessment,” she said. 

“Tell me what you think is wrong," I asked her.

“Well, I just took a different emotional intelligence assessment from a book that I bought in the airport, and that test said I had really strong empathy.” 

“What makes you think the assessment we took in class is wrong?” I asked her.

A bit stunned by that question, she hesitated, and said, “Well, this assessment says my empathy is below average, and the other test said I am way above average, so I guess I just want the high score to be the right score.” 

“Let me ask you this, and be really honest: which of these two assessments of your empathy seems most like you?" I replied.

After a long pause, she said, a bit sheepishly, “I guess the lower one. I know I have work to do in this area," she said, “I was just hoping that the hill wasn’t so steep.  I know my lack of empathy gets in my way as a leader.”

“How was your Reality Testing score in the Decision-Making domain?" I asked.

“One development thing at a time,” she stated.

Buyer Beware

Just like any consumer product you might purchase at your local Walmart or Walgreens, there are many types of leadership assessments you can choose from. When you go to buy a car you have many choices:

What is the Make of car:  Mercedes or Smart Car

What is the Model of car: C-Class or Fortwo

Then you have to think about what features you want to add to each vehicle.

Sure, you want to buy a car, but the quality and price difference will be staggering: Thousands of dollars of difference between Mercedes and Smart Car. 

Yeah, tell me something I don’t already know, Scott, what is your point?

My Point

As you think about the leadership tools you put in your toolbox, make sure they are the ones that are going to take you where you need to go. Just like there are big differences in cars, so too are the big differences in leadership tools. In many cases, what looks like a low-cost option might not be getting you the results you are looking for. 


In the area of emotional intelligence, consider these recent studies as you think about the tools you want to provide to the leaders you work with:

  1.  A 2014 report showed that investments in Artificial Intelligence startups have increased by 300% over a four-year period (Stamps, 2017). Routine tasks are being handled more by machines, and ever increasingly, it will be emotional and social skills, such as empathy and collaboration, that will be required by people. (Kolbjørnsrud, et al., 2016). 
  2.  Alex Gray of the World Economic Forum (2016) states, “Five years from now, over one-third of skills (35%) that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed." Emotional intelligence, for example, is not on the list today of top ten job skills needed. By 2020, emotional intelligence is listed as number six in the top ten of job skills needed by everyone (Gray, 2016).
  3. According to Miao, C. Humphrey, R. H., & Qian, S. (2016), based on a meta-analysis, leaders' emotional intelligence (EI) positively relates to subordinates' job satisfaction. Job satisfaction can have a direct impact on an employee's intent to stay and hence a direct correlation to the organizations bottom line. High-quality relationships have a positive impact on employee work perception, well-being and emotional experience (Karanika-Murray, et al., 2015).
  4. Miao, C., Humphrey, R. H., & Qian, S. (2017) report that An analysis of self-report EI found that the effects of EI on Organization Citizenship Behavior (OCB)  and Counterproductive Work Behavior (CWB) are stronger in health care and service industries than in industries where emotional labor demands are lower. The results imply that organizations can increase OCB and reduce CWB by recruiting employees high in EI and by training employees in emotional competencies.

According to the research that I read, the need to hire and train leaders in emotional intelligence is gaining in relevance and importance. 

3 Factors In Selecting Leadership Tools

As your organization evaluates tools to train your leaders, here are 3 significant things to keep in mind:

  1. Validity and Reliability: If you are going to use any tool in your leadership toolbox, these might be the two most important to consider. For a tool to be valid, it must be proven to measure what you want it to measure. To be reliable, it must measure the same thing repeatedly. You will want to ensure that your tool was built with these in mind as it was developed. It really doesn’t matter how many people have taken an assessment if it was not developed with the right scientific rigor. People can get scores that are meaningless if the validity and reliability are not right.
  2. Normed Population Distribution: Does the population that the assessment was built for fit the population you are working with? If you are working with professional people, does your assessment allow you to select an appropriate population to measure against? If you are measuring how good a professional athlete is, for example, do you want to assess their statistics against other professionals or just a general population some of whom might not even play sports at all? 
  3. Normed Population Size: Is the population of your leadership tool big enough to give you the statistical power you need to be able to show measurable differences in behavior. If it is then you can create meaningful development plans. If not then you run the risk of telling people that they are good at things they know they are not.

Final Thought

When I was a young boy I used to love to go to work with my dad, a sheet-metal worker. I used to watch them put huge pieces of siding on buildings and set air conditioning units on the tops of hospitals with helicopters. It was pretty cool stuff to watch as a kid.  

Dad was always a stickler for using the right tool for the right job. I can remember more than once I had to go back to the tool box and get the crescent wrench because I had grabbed the pipe wrench the first time he asked for it. "What difference does it make?" I asked, “It makes all the difference in the world.” He would say. "If we don’t use the right tool we might break something and then we will have a big mess on our hands."

As you consider the leadership tools you put into your toolbox, please make sure they are the right ones that are going to allow you to build the type of leaders the organizations you support are going to need to take them into the future.