Entrepreneurial leadership and the relevance of emotional intelligence

By: Curtis Sprouse

January 2020

Organizations spend significant amounts of capital and time searching for leaders who will make a difference, but are they focusing on the key dynamics that will lead to success? People and situational dynamics are the primary components of any situation that one must navigate to positively impact the outcome. If we are unable to connect with those we encounter and establish some level of trust, we will have little chance of influencing or positively impacting that situation.

To fully understand the concept of connection we need to explore the two driving elements, Social Skills and Goodwill. Social Skills refers to the ability to identify with a shared experience, intellectual or physical interest, and or relate to meaningful elements of one's life (i.e. family and friends). Goodwill is defined as the ability to show compassion, genuine care and empathy for others. These two elements of connection—Social Skills and Goodwill—impact the information we receive as inputs, and the information we convey as outputs. When we care and connect to a specific person, we have heightened sensitivity to what the person is expressing, causing us to seek different forms of information. We look for facial expressions and gestures, we listen to the tone of voice, and we observe movement and body language.

These inputs provide important context to what is said and not said. They help us understand the presenter’s views from a deeper and more significant perspective. When we know what is important to others, we gain insight into how they might prioritize information. A woman executive who is a mother of five will have a different perspective than a male executive of the same age without children. These are important factors when we are faced with understanding why a person has taken a position.

Has the individual developed a full understanding of self? One good model was developed by Daniel Shapiro in his book Negotiating the Nonnegotiable. Shapiro uses what he calls the Five Pillars of Identity: Beliefs, Rituals, Allegiances, Values, and Emotional Meaningful Experiences as a formula for understanding key factors that impact actions and reactions. When one strives to and fully understands these dynamics of self and others, they are better able to leverage Emotional Intelligence.

When we start to consider other forms of information, we understand the other person's values, views, interpretation, concerns, and desires as a component of the information being spoken. This is extremely important as people will make emotional decisions long before they make rational decisions. Understanding the emotions and values of those involved in a situation is as important as understanding the topic and environmental factors that shape and govern the situation.

It is often hard for people to separate emotion from fact. What one perceives to be right and just can vary widely from what another may believe. The Pillars of Identity will play a role. This is evident every day in our jury process. Often juries are split on whether to convict or acquit a defendant. After a nine-month trial, OJ Simpson was acquitted of murder in less than four hours by a vote of 10 to acquit and 2 to convict. Given the extensive testimony and evidence, how could the opinions of two people vary from that of the remaining ten? In 1995, a survey approximated that 20% of black respondents and 70% of white respondents believed Simpson was guilty. In 2015, however, a survey indicated that approximately 53% of black respondents and 80% of white respondents believed OJ Simpson to be guilty of killing Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman (1).

All the jurors were subjected to the same testimony at the same time, but they formed two groups with diametrically opposed positions. These groups had different beliefs, rituals, allegiances, values and experience that shaped how they interpreted the information. The statistical changes in the groups between 1995 and 2015 reflects the change in how the two cohorts have evolved and how time allows people to invoke rational thought over emotional thought. Most jurors were in-line with racial views at the time but had a view that differed from that of the general population. The fact that two people died, and someone killed them has not changed in 20 years. Does the shift in opinion reflect a change in emotion? If you believe the change in opinion is not the result of a change in emotion, then what did cause the change? Recognition of facts!

Each person will place emphasis on specific data points that help them justify their own positions eliminating or ignoring other facts that often provide a more complete understanding of the situation. If you would like a second example of this, spend an hour watching the analysis of the Trump impeachment hearing. Watch 30 minutes of CNN reports and 30 minutes of FOX News reports and make a list of the points expressed by each station relative to the testimony being analyzed, and compare the two lists. You will find that each station emphasizes different points from different perspectives, leading the listener to believe that the testimony clearly vindicates all charges (FOX) or clearly outlines the need to proceed with impeachment and removal of Trump from office (CNN). Is it possible for both situations to be true? How will we evaluate the Trump impeachment hearings in 20 years? The facts will not have changed but the emotions will be different!

If we are not able to understand the emotions and accurately define the reality of a situation in order to form an appropriate response, accounting for all constituents, we will likely make choices that do not produce optimal outcomes. How often does our inability to balance emotion and fact result in releasing the guilty and convict the innocent? These examples are important as the factors that govern decisions in the examples are no different than the factors that affect the daily decisions made by all people.

We tend to loosely use words like manager, strategic leader, and entrepreneurial leader with little thought to what these terms are conveying. In complex work environments, we must understand the distinctions between emotion and fact. As leaders of organizations we must equip our teams with the skills to interpret and discern between the inputs of decision making, enabling the maturation of the elements recognized in top performers and world class teams.

Let’s look at a few definitions to better focus and codify these concepts.

Manager is a person responsible for controlling or administering all or part of a company or similar organization.

Strategic Leadership refers to a manager’s potential to express a strategic vision for the organization, or a part of the organization, and to motivate and persuade others to acquire that vision.

Entrepreneurial Leadership involves organizing and motivating a group of people to achieve a common objective through innovation, risk optimization, taking advantage of opportunities, and managing the dynamic organizational environment.

What many organizations miss is the need to develop leaders that teach others how to apply critical thinking skills, problem solving, and effective implementation skills. The deficiencies in these skills are more profound given many leaders and members of their teams fail to realize they have limited resources, many of which they cannot control. This opportunity and requirement for success is why we need to focus more on entrepreneurial leadership training rather than simply imparting managerial skills or focusing on strategic leadership skills. Motivating people to get things done based on a vision is not enough! We need people to take personal responsibility to do the right thing, to get the right things done based on the reality of the situation. Individuals need to use emotion to influence without letting emotion outweigh the facts.

What does Entrepreneurial Leadership entail? One very important element is Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and the development of Emotional influence skills. EQ is defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

EurekaConnect’s data shows that Goodwill and Social Skills are at the heart of EQ. An individual's failure to care and connect negatively impacts the quality and effectiveness of inputs and outputs associated with interpersonal interactions. One's ability to understand their Identity Pillars and those of others will be compromised if Social skills and Goodwill are low.

The good news is that these are learned dynamics of behavior. People can learn how to connect and how to care. People can strengthen EQ skills, building a foundation for enhanced Entrepreneurial Leadership expertise. We need to be more deliberate as leaders in teaching these concepts. Leaders need to realize that these are not soft skills, but that they are essential skills which need to become the focus of not only our leadership and organizational training, but a component of our educational process.

As we teach these skills and work to improve our ability to use them, we will not only improve organizational performance, but we will strengthen society’s ability to individually take responsibility for their actions. In doing so, people will have a greater tendency to make moral and ethical decisions based on reality more consistently through time, rather than at a specific moment in time.

(1)Most Black People Now Think O.J. Was Guilty By Carl Bialik, Filed under Criminal Justice

Note:Scores, profiles, or assessments referenced in this article refer to characteristics defined in the EurekaConnect Behavioral Dynamics program

About the author: Curtis R. Sprouse is the President and CEO of EurekaConnect, LLC. Curtis has spent more than 25 years building companies and consulting for hundreds of the fortune 500 companies.

EurekaConnect, LLC uses proven technologies and data driven solutions that objectively and measurably improve organizational performance. For more information please e-mail: