One question we often get is how and why emotional intelligence (EI) training is part of the Junto program. Before getting to the answer, let’s cover a couple definitions.

We subscribe to the one for emotional intelligence as the ability to recognize and regulate the emotions in ourselves and others, and how to use that information to guide our actions and thinking. We also subscribe to the definition of leadership as the ability to move people in the direction one wants to go.

With those definitions in mind, there are two reasons our program focuses on leadership development with EI as the foundation.

First, many studies have shown a direct link between emotional intelligence and leadership effectiveness. Because we couldn’t hypothesize how people could learn leadership, we believed (assuming the science was accurate) that if they could learn how to become more emotionally intelligent, they would be able to accelerate their effectiveness as leaders.

Second, at a practical level, we believe that it’s very hard to move people in the direction one wants to go without having the ability to recognize and regulate the emotions in oneself and others. A leader’s primary job is to inform, influence, and inspire those around her. So if that leader wants to perform that job well and move people in the direction she wants them to go, we believe she must be in tune with herself and those around her, and know how to use that “data”.

So those are the reasons why we have EI training as part of Junto. And how we do it is fairly simple in concept but very difficult in practice.

First, the JuntoApprentices practice specific habits rooted in EI that are designed to effect behavioral change. As they will tell you, even a single habit can be hard to practice on a daily basis, not to mention the challenge of practicing multiple habits over the course of the program, and even after graduating.

And second, we have a series of four classes that are designed to stimulate conversation within leadership teams about emotional intelligence. Although the class itself opens up the topic for each team, perhaps for the first time ever, keeping that conversation going over the course of time can be difficult.

This second point cannot be overstated. We believe that the pillars of EI – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, empathy, and relationship management – are ideas that aren’t discussed enough in the workplace, especially among members of an executive team and especially in growth-stage companies, where things can move very fast.

As it is, leadership teams rarely carve out enough time for them to talk as a group. And when they do, it’s often about business priorities and challenges, their strategic plan, or an urgent matter requiring everyone’s input.

We believe that it’s vital they also have open, candid, and sincere conversations about themselves as human beings, and how they can improve the interaction in, and the culture of, the company. Because when they start doing that, they’re even more capable of moving their people in the direction they want to go.