‘Work it Out’- with Vivian: Emotional Intelligence- an essential leadership tool

According to the findings in neuroscience, decision making is not based on logic, facts and figures but on emotions. Some years back, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio studied people with damage in the part of the brain where emotions are generated, he found that they seemed normal, except that they were not able to feel emotions. He made a ground breaking discovery of what they all had in common – they could not make decisions.

With this understanding in mind, the importance of emotional intelligence (EI) in social relations cannot be overemphasized. Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate one’s own emotions and those of others. Not only is emotional intelligence a valuable tool in social relations, studies have shown that people with high EI have greater mental health, exemplary job performance, and more potent leadership skills. I may not be a specialist in behavioral science and psychology, but I have come to realize through my rigorous professional consulting training that emotional intelligence is a must have skill for every effective leader.

Emotional intelligence starts from knowing oneself; one’s tendencies, likes, motivations, repulsions and fears and being able to manage these traits effectively to achieve or prevent certain outcomes. People generally respond to stress and adverse situations in certain ways; flight, fight, freeze or fawn. Effective leaders master and manage their emotions so effectively that they do not fly, fight, freeze nor fawn in the face of unpleasant circumstances. They continue to maintain the required dispositions for performing/ executing their everyday tasks and responsibilities.

Effective leaders are also able to manage the emotions of the people who work with them. They listen effectively and perceive nonverbal signals such as body language and facial expressions to understand the motivations or repulsions of those who work with them. Once they identify these emotions and the possible triggers, they prioritize, respond to them appropriately and even make use of these emotions to achieve or prevent certain outcomes. Call this manipulation; it is not. The real name is emotional intelligence. This principle works not only with subordinates but with bosses, colleagues and clients as well.

Thirdly, and very importantly, effective leaders apply a lot of humor when relating with people. Humor is actually an advanced emotional intelligence skill. It can be applied both in dealing with one’s own emotions and that of others especially when the leader has attained the requisite mental strength/stability. Humor eases emotional stress, relaxes tense atmosphere and acts as a powerful tool in getting others to see things our own way in everyday negotiations.

Humor has also been shown to be a powerful tool in helping to manage disruptive negative emotions such as anger and anxiety/tension. Humor is especially important on the job, where chronic complaining and negative emotions can quickly undermine morale and reduce productivity. An effective leader/ manager can make use of humor to dissipate emotional toxins in the atmosphere and help others to improve their mood in order to make work fun again. 

Another key element of advanced emotional intelligence is mental strength. Emotionally intelligent people are mentally strong people. Only the mentally strong person can understand and accept the dynamics of life, stay stable and act appropriately even in the face of stressful situations. According to Caroline Gregoire in the Huffington post, mentally strong individuals exhibit certain special attributes:

  • They see things objectively: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – Shakespeare.
  • They let go of entitlement: Thinking that one deserves to get what one wants most or all of the time can make it much more difficult to deal with challenges when they arise.
  • They are emotionally stable and able to keep a cool head: This is an enormous asset when it comes to dealing with challenging situations. Fortunately, emotional stability tends to increase with age and people become happier as a result.
  • They do not aspire to be happy all the time: Excessive preoccupation with happiness can actually lead to an unhealthy attitude. 
  • They are realistic optimists: Mentally tough people do not give up after they fall. They always have a plan A, plan B and Plan C. 
  • They live in the present moment:  They do not dwell in the past or try to anticipate the future. They only operate in the circle of the circumstances they can control in the present moment. 
  • They are persistent with the pursuit of their goals: One of the most fundamental qualities of resilient people as psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth puts it, is true grit.
  • But they know when it is time to let go: Just as important as grit is the ability to recognize that one can control only one’s own actions, not the results of those actions. Accepting this fact allows us to resign to the things that are beyond our power.
  • They love their lives: Mentally strong people are grateful and appreciative of obstacles because of the simple fact that obstacles are life itself.

The ramifications of emotional intelligence may not be fully exhausted since human traits are usually dynamic, but the underlying principle is that of showing appropriate self-restraint and then genuinely caring and giving of our best to people who work and live with us. 

Women & Work, women in business

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