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Are CEOs Emotionally Stupid? The Truth on EI & Success ("In Sheep's Clothing")

In Sheep's Clothing is a wonderful book that improved my understanding of the connection between Emotional Intelligence and the climbing of dominance hierarchies.

The Misunderstanding of EI

Emotional Intelligence is huge in life.

Both for success and for life fulfillment.

Yes, it's somewhat misunderstood.
Daniel Goleman in his bestseller Emotional Intelligence popularized studies like this one with the often misquoted headline that "EI accounts for 80% of career success".

Of course to anyone with a critical mind that is absolute nonsense, but let's skip it for now because there is something much more interesting.

What The Data Showed

Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 measured the EI of many managers, executives and CEOs.
What he found out was striking.
Managers indeed had higher EI scores than average.
But CEOs?
CEOs showed lower EI scores than the average.

His answer to that?
That CEOs weren't doing a good enough job and they had work to do.

LOL, what a brilliant example of "I don't like the data, so let's find a way around it" :).
Because the data clearly showed that EI wasn't such a great predictor of career success.

The Truth of EI & Success

The truth, unluckily, is dimmer and darker.
And the truth is that climbing to the top of many (most?) organizations has little to do with EI. Or at least, little to do with acting on those EI signals.

Here is what George Simon says in his seminal "In Sheep's Clothing":

CEOs like who they are and are comfortable with their behavior patterns and how they act.
Even though their behavior might bother others a lot.

CEOs most often have inflated self-esteem, and it’s not compensation for underlying feeling of inadequacies.
CEOs are undeterred by adverse consequences or societal condemnation.

In the words of Dan Rust in his wonderful Workplace Poker, they act more like Teflon rhinos.
Rhinos dim, shut down or ignore empathy and interpersonal emotions to go ahead with actions and behaviors that might bother -or hurt- the people around.

Here is the truth then:

  • In life and interpersonal relationships, EI is crucial
  • To become (mid-level) managers, EI is very important
  • To get to the very top, a "barge my way through it and fuck what others think" might yield better results

Which is exactly the reason why I founded this website...

Lean power dynamics my friends and don't leat the rhinos steamroll your life (and the world).

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Update: this is an important topic so I dedicated a whole article on how emotional intelligence affects leadership and leadership performance:

Update of the update, this is even more thorough on the topic:

 

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