So you’ve just moved up a rung on the organizational ladder. Take a moment to congratulate yourself – you’ve earned it.

Now ask yourself what you’re going to do to avoid turning into the boss you always hated.

A new study shows that the popular conception of clueless, narcissistic execs has some basis in reality: Emotional intelligence (EQ) scores are lower in the executive suite than among front-line managers. And they’re lowest of all among CEOs.

The study analyzed EQ scores of more than a million employees and how they stacked up for various job titles. The results were striking: The average EQ score for nonsupervisors was 74. It jumped to 77 for front-line supervisors, and a little higher at the manager level.

Makes sense, right? Supervisors and managers get selected because they’re good with people.

But for titles above manager, average EQ scores declined. For directors, they’re essentially back to the same level as among nonsupervisors. For executives/VPs, they’re down to about 72. Senior executives’ scores are lower still – about 71. And they’re lowest of all for CEOs, approaching 70.

Are companies hiring low-EQ execs?

So what’s behind these numbers? Do they mean you have to be a jerk to get ahead?

That’s one possibility – that organizations are somehow selecting low-EQ people for top jobs.

But it could be something about the jobs themselves that impair senior managers’ people skills, the researchers suggest. In lower-level management jobs, most day-to-day challenges involve people issues, so managers are constantly applying those skills. In higher-level jobs, managers don’t interact with the rank and file as much. They’re more focused on issues such as KPIs, profits, costs, strategy, analytics. As a result, their people skills can get rusty.

Implications for managers

But the researchers also found another clear trend: Within each job category, the people who are most successful are those with high EQ scores.

The implication for managers is clear: As your responsibilities increase, it gets harder and harder to stay connected with your people, but it becomes more and more important that you do so. So you need to make a conscious effort. You can’t count as much on those random encounters that front-line managers know are so important to team building. You need to build opportunities for interaction into the job itself – for example, by setting up regular times to sit with the rank and file and get their feedback.

Source: Why your boss lacks emotional intelligence, Huffington Post, by Dr. Travis Bradberry. Bradberry is a coauthor of the book “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” Published by TalentSmart.

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