How bad things can happen to good people who lack emotional intelligence


School and school system leaders are far more likely to get into difficulty because of low social and emotional intelligence than because of deficiencies in their technical knowledge. At least that’s my observation.

Here’s why they get into trouble:

• Because these leaders often have a high need to control people and situations, they are unlikely to trust others or to delegate.

• Because of a lack of trust and poor interpersonal skills, these leaders seldom have supportive relationships with others and therefore are unlikely to value the development of such relationships within the school community.

• Because these leaders don’t know how to manage or express their feelings in appropriate and proportionate ways, they are likely to be angry, anxious, and/or cynical. Those feelings, in turn, are amplified across the school community and create what some experts call a “slow-death spiral,” which depletes energy and diminishes hope for a better future.

• Because these leaders are unable to accurately sense and respond to the feelings of others, their relationships are likely to be tumultuous and superficial and viewed as means to an end rather than as worthy ends in themselves to be nurtured and valued.

• And because leaders with low social and emotional intelligence have limited self awareness, they are unlikely to see any of the above in themselves.

Do you agree, or not?


13 Responses to “How bad things can happen to good people who lack emotional intelligence”

  1. 1 Bill May 9, 2013 at 5:21 am

    Agreed. They allow their egos to supersede the needs and wants of the people they serve being unwilling to say yes agree or understand their role s and put others above themselves?! imho

  2. 2 Barbarawmadden May 9, 2013 at 5:54 am

    As one who has been the victim of a school building leader whose lack of EQ resulted in emotional and professional abuse, I would like to advocate for EQ screenings for those vying for a position in any school but especially positions of school leadership. I actually know of a working district leader who was required by his BOE to take a Dale Carnegie course before moved into the superintendency. Good person but zero EQ. This district is known for its negativity. Very sad. Thank you for sharing, Dennis! Getting better really is forever!!

  3. 5 Patricia T. De Bello May 9, 2013 at 8:10 am

    It is truly frightening to think that,at some point, these building or district ” leaders” stood as teachers in classrooms! A concern for me that arises is the potential for the institutional sanction( although, of course, this would never be admitted) of ignoring the destructiveness that these type of individuals can reap. Numbers, more than ever, are the bottom ( or in ” the race to the top” ) the primary consideration! With the weakening of unions and the rise of privatization of schools, EI may be the last quality looked for or nurtured in a school leader, although Barbara’s example is encouraging! decades ago, IBM actually ran its own ” charm school” for selected employees!

    • 6 barbarawmadden May 9, 2013 at 9:37 am

      Patricia, I do think some EI/EQ skills can be taught, but I also think some folks need to find another vocation. If one’s heart’s desire is to be a drill sergeant, then join the military and leave education to those who “get” it.

      • 7 Dennis Sparks May 9, 2013 at 9:41 am

        I don’t know for sure, but I think the military is paying increased attention to “people skills.”

  4. 8 Patricia T. De Bello May 9, 2013 at 10:16 am

    How wonderful that would be, Barbara! Interestingly a friend recently retired from a teaching position at a major university with very high academic standards. The young students in his classes were brilliant in their content areas but the university leaders recognized the need for improved ” people skills” for these future leaders in their fields! I wonder how and if EI is addressed in the training grounds for teachers/ administrators? Is it just assumed that those now entering the field of education( and administration) innately possess EI? Again, in these stressful days of strange accountability is EI seen as a plus ?

  5. 9 Rick Hamrick May 9, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Sadly, Dennis, the requirements for entry into all professions, save perhaps the ministry, do not include human relations skills or social IQ. The school leaders you and other readers describe are hopefully a small minority, just as a small minority of teachers, doctors and lawyers can sometimes taint public perception of the profession and bring turmoil and angst to the environment in which they exist.

  6. 10 Jamie May 9, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    I completely agree with you, Dennis. I have encountered leaders with EQ challenges and they do seem to have a blind spot and not see themselves as others do. I happen to be taking a class on this very topic and will be certified to administer the SEIP (Social and Emotional Intelligence Profile). What leads me to this learning and work is that we can all improve our social and emotional intelligence. Your last point, about self awareness, is where we can start. I’m hoping this will be another good tool to use with my coaching clients. Thanks for a great post on a great topic!

    • 11 Dennis Sparks May 9, 2013 at 8:55 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Jamie, and for reminding us that social and emotional skills can be learned and relationships strengthened as a result. Perfection isn’t possible for any of us, but improvement certainly is.

  7. 12 Jennie Snyder May 27, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    I agree. EQ is an essential leadership attribute, now more than ever. Working with others (not dictating from above) requires leaders to be self aware and keenly tuned in to the emotional state of those in their organization. Thanks for your post!

  8. 13 Dennis Sparks May 27, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Jennie! I appreciate having you as an engaged reader…

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