Thursday, October 13, 2011

Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence and Leadership


In 1995, Daniel Goleman released a hard-hitting, inspiring snapshot of what he labels, 'Emotional Intelligence'. Improving your Emotional Intelligence (EQ), he said was just as important as improving your Intelligence Quotient (IQ).

We could all sit here and think of a person with an extraordinarily high IQ who has a very limited ability to emotionally connect with those around him. That's because, this person has a high IQ, but a low EQ. Goleman relays a story of a student named Jason (of Colorado Springs, Florida), who was an A+, highly intellectual student, who desired to enter Harvard University. When Pologruto (his Physics Teacher) gave him a 'B' on a quiz, Jason took a butcher knife to school, and stabbed Pologruto in the collar bone. Why would someone of such a high IQ, be able to do something so dumb? (p. 33 - Emotional Intelligence). The answer - he lacked emotional intellignce.

Our emotional intelligence is our ability to deal with our emotions, for example, how we respond to someone cutting us off in traffic, or our reaction to a close friend betraying us, or how we deal with our anger when our spouse grates against us. Other situations include, our emotional reaction to almost touching a hot stove, or the fear we have when we stand on the balcony 30 stories high. What about the emotions you feel, when you are driving along and a car brakes hard, and all of sudden your previous bad experience of that car accident from 1997 comes fresh to mind? This intelligence is powerful and someone being able to control their emotional responses will no doubt stand in good stead for empowering leadership and interpersonal relationships in the future.

Prior to Goleman's revolutionary teaching on emotional intelligence, IQ was believed to be the most important type of intelligence that existed. Interestingly Stephen Covey goes further in his book The 8th Habit, saying there are four intelligences that we need to focus on (Intelligence Quotient, Emotional Intelligence, Physical Intelligence and Spiritual Intelligence or IQ, EQ, PQ, SQ). Daniel Goleman speaks of a contemporary, Howard Gardner, who in his 1983 book Frames of Mind, wrote that there was not just one 'monolithic kind of intelligence that was crucial for life success' (p. 38), but he listed at least 7 varieties (e.g. verbal and mathematical-logical intelligence, spatial capacity, interpersonal intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, etc.).


Consider the picture of the brain above. You will see an almond shaped part of the brain called the amygdala, and this part of the brain is related to our responses to emotional situations. When we are confronted with a situation that makes us tense, angry, nervous, or fearful, it is our amygdala that is creating those emotional urges/feelings we have. Emotionally intelligent leaders are able to deal with their response to emotionally laden circumstances better than people or leaders with low emotional intelligence.

Interestingly, the rational part of our brain, and where we make rational decisions, e.g. "I will eat breakfast because it helps kick start my metabolism", is made with the prefrontal cortex (pictured as the prefrontal lobe). Now, when we are thrown into an emotional situation, our brain will generally go to the amgdala 'before' the prefrontal cortex. Now let me explain what happens then... We find out, for example that an employee has stolen from you - the manager. Since the situation makes you quite emotional, the amgydala kicks in almost immediately, before the brain has had the chance to make a rational response to the situation. So as the manager, you might find yourself getting angry and blowing off some steam, and then realizing a moment later that you flew off the handle unexpectedly. The challenge for leaders, is to be emotionally intelligent, and take a deep breath before responding to emotional circumstances. This actually gives time for the brain to consider an appropriate response from the prefrontal cortex, (where the rational decisions are made). So, when someone says, 'Take a deep breath...' it is not just to shut you up, or a cliche, it is actually a physiological fact, that a deep breath, helps your brain to have that split second extra time to make the right and rational response.

Emotionally intelligent leaders take the deep breath. That don't let their initial feelings, hurt and pain be expressed in an unprofessional manner. They allow that extra moment to make a wise, rational response.
This is emotional intelligence and this is why Daniel Goleman rates it so highly amongst the intelligences, because it affects our ability to engage with others, and our ability to lead.

1 comment:

  1. And EI means one has the ability to perceive emotions in others and act appropriately...

    There comes a point where we move on from our own self-awareness to an awareness of the emotions of others.

    I has seen a leader speak to a woman who had tears steaming down her face and ocmpletely ignore the pain shown there. I have seen leaders who do not pick up on the pain, the doubt, the hesitancy shown in another's eyes. I have seen people who do not pickup on the pain that is shown on someone's face after hurtful comments (and not even recognize that something is wrong). Verbal and nonverbal clues of the emotional state of another are not noticed... nor is the caring response given, and certianly no active involvement given.

    Self-awareness and understanding then leads to social awareness - to a greater empathy, a caring response and an active interest in their concerns.

    I pray that God will deepen within me a perception of the emotions of others; and the sense to acts as Jesus would.

    Thankyou so much for this valuable reminder, Pete - really appreciate it.

    Bless ya!

    Robyn Clinch.

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