Commentary

May 3, 2013

Emotional intelligence calls for controlled feelings

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There is no doubt that we are emotional people. Many of us have the ability to control and or hide our emotions better than others. Some of us wear our emotions on our sleeves.

Part of leadership is understanding and managing emotions and emotional situations. Failure on the part of the leader to understand their own emotions can be detrimental to the ability to lead, motivate and inspire an organization. Effective leaders understand their emotions but more importantly display a high degree of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is simply the ability of a leader to control varying moods, suspend judgment, express passion beyond personal gain and the ability to build rapport with their stakeholders. Think for a moment about an effective leader who you may have worked for. Did they possess these abilities? Do you? A leader with a high degree of emotional intelligence possesses self-awareness, is self-regulating, self-motivating, and has good social awareness and social skills.

Displaying emotion in the workplace is often seen as taboo among leaders. Perhaps you have witnessed a leader lose their cool and “go off.” Was your immediate thought one of great respect for how they handled that situation? If that episode was not purposeful, it probably left everyone feeling a bit awkward. When a leader is self-aware and regulates their emotions and delivers the exact same message (“going off”) it is not seen as awkward. Finding that balance of understanding your emotions as well as the emotions of those around you can be difficult but necessary as a leader.

Leaders who balance emotions and are selflessly motivated are an inspiration. These leaders invoke pride in an organization, build cohesive teams and foster teamwork. We are all able to recognize them because they emit a positive energy and speak in terms of “us and we” versus “I and me.” Leaders who have mastered this characteristic of emotional intelligence are connected to the people around them professionally and personally. The benefit is a high performing team with high employee and customer satisfaction.

How leaders react matters. How leaders control their own emotions matters too. Because we are emotional people a misstep can create a polarization within an organization. We are all charged to lead Airmen and prepare them to protect and defend our constitution and our way of life. We find immediate examples of emotional intelligence and leadership from first responders in Newtown and recently Boston, whose ability to control their emotions and focus on the mission allowed them to protect and save lives. Government officials who give live interviews, with their stomachs still in knots from trying to digest what they have seen, effectively use emotional intelligence. It is that steady hand of leadership that allows us to forget our own circumstances and inspires us to march forward.

In the face of adversity we have to display emotional intelligence in order to respond and lead; our Airmen expect it.




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