Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

Emotional Intelligence is about managing our emotions and in turn being able to manage others.

In Daniel Goleman’s popular book ‘Working with Emotional Intelligence’ he tells the following story of a young flight attendant confronted by a group of angry businessmen.

It was Super Bowl Sunday, that sacrosanct day when most Americans are to be found in front of their televisions.  A departing flight from New York to Detroit was delayed and the tension among the passengers, mostly businessmen, was palpable.  When it finally landed a glitch made the plane stop about 100 feet from the gate.  Frantic about being late, passengers leapt to their feet anyway.  A flight attendant went to the intercom.  How could she get a planeload of angry businessmen to sit back down?

She did not bother to ‘pull rank’ and announce in a stern voice, “Federal regulations require that you be seated before we can continue to the gate.” 

Instead, she warbled in a singsong tone, suggestive of a playful warning to an adorable child, “You’re standing.”  With that everyone laughed and sat back down until the plane finished taxiing to the gate.  And, given the circumstances, they got off the plane in a surprisingly good mood.”

This story illustrates the power of EQ at work.  Our hero, the flight attendant, demonstrates two important skills.  Firstly, she successfully manages her own emotions.  She does not panic.  She does not start an argument.  If she did, even if she ‘won’ the argument, it would have created resentment towards herself and towards the airline.  Instead, she stayed calm.  And this allowed her to think on her feet and find a win-win solution.

Secondly, beyond managing herself, she also demonstrated the ability to manage others.  With a little empathy, charm, and good humour she took an angry mob and transformed them, like putty in her hand.  They followed her direction and put their frustration, however justifiable, to one side.

It is often said EQ is a better predictor of success than regular intelligence.  This is an example of why.

Emotional Intelligence and Resilience.

Like our flight attendant, we all have moments where we are tested.  In these moments, we can either become overwhelmed with anxiety or self-doubt.  Or we can contain those negative thoughts and feelings and put them to one side.

For example, studies show most people, including people in senior positions, experience so called ‘imposter syndrome’.   Imposter syndrome is the fear of being exposed as a phony.  It is the belief that we don’t measure up to others, and it is surprisingly common.   

EQ is the ability to catch these self-doubts and reframe them as 1) something everyone experiences and 2) something to be sidelined or ignored.

With a little practice, you will still have these doubts, but you won’t take orders from them.  You will be able to control your doubts, rather than letting them control you.  This is the difference between speaking up in meetings or keeping quiet.   It is the difference between getting frustrated and saying something you regret or staying cool and finding a win-win solution.  It is the difference between putting yourself forward for opportunities or holding yourself back.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

Leadership is a contact sport.  It requires people skills.  Even if you are good at certain parts of your job, if you can’t inspire, motivate and build trust in others you will never reach your potential as a professional.  

Some examples

EQ training teaches leaders how to build positive teams.  For example, EQ training encourages leaders to identify and leverage the personal strengths of individual team members, so that people come to work each day with the sense they are doing their ‘good thing’ more. 

EQ training teaches leaders how to motivate people.  For example, by showcasing examples of satisfied stakeholders or customers, so that staff can see more clearly that their efforts make a difference in people’s lives. 

EQ training teaches leaders how to reduce work stress by granting staff more autonomy over how tasks are completed, thus providing real empowerment to workers. 

EQ is the ability to be self-aware and to manage your own reactions in situations.  It is the ability to lead and manage relationships with others.  Practicing these skills will help you to strengthen your EQ to give you the extra edge in your personal and your professional life.

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