Emotional Intelligence is the capacity for managing and motivating our own emotions and the emotions of others. The key competencies of Emotional Intelligence are (see chart 1): Self-Awareness, Emotional Management and Emotional Connection. Mastering these three skills will lead to great personal leadership.
Self-awareness is the foundation of what we teach in our Emotional Intelligence training programs. Once one is aware of the emotions that are driving their emotions, they can move on to learning how to manage those emotions.
Why does managing emotions matter in relationships?
If we are tired and having a bad day and someone tells us some bad news, it’s easy to lose control of our emotions and lash out. Not only because of the disappointing news but because, after all, it’s an employee and they will understand. Oh, and I am the boss, right?
While this kind of behavior may be forgiven in the moment, the long-term consequences are disastrous. Ineffective management of emotions sabotage this or any other important relationship. For example, research by John Gottman can now predict with 94% accuracy which marital relationships will survive and thrive and which will fall apart, based on one EQ quality: how skillfully we air our grievances. In others words, it is not the waves we face in our marriage – or in any relationship for that matter – it is how we surf them, not losing control at every frustration and understanding the needs of the other person, that predicts long term success.
Great leaders are not those who bark orders and fly off the handle when things get tough. The movies are completely wrong with this stereotype – mainly military – of the great leader who in an impassioned burst of emotion puts people in their place and saves the day with their brilliance. Quite the opposite. We work with the US Navy and Army, and we find that great leaders are those who can maintain a sense of calm when facing great challenges so that more skilled decisions can be made. Great leaders can suspend their judgment and not jump to snap decisions, even when facing criticism or bad news. Great leaders can listen, even when they are under pressure.
This is not to say that great leaders are “laid back” at all times, it’s that they show more self-control. They can act with decisiveness knowing they’ve taken time to hear everyone’s point of view and have evaluated a situation in a calm and methodical manner.
The amazing thing about people who have the skill to remain calm and decisive under adverse conditions is that they infect the people around them, allowing the people they lead to remain calm as well. In our leadership courses, we share neurological research on the brain indicating that emotions are, in fact, highly infectious. Knowing this and managing our impulses in the heat of the moment is the basis for creating “emotional connections” with others. These connections build the ‘trust that lubricates’ – buffering our important relationships when we see things differently from those around us but still have to make unpopular decisions.