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Emotional Intelligence-A Key to Improving Leadership

By Orrin Woodward

All of us have heard of IQ – Intelligence Quotient, but only a few of us have heard of EQ – Emotional Quotient.

When it comes to success, EQ is more important than IQ. The world is full of unsuccessful people who have a high IQ, but when a person develops high EQ, doors are opened for them.

EQ is the ability to maintain your cool while others around you are losing theirs, a grace under pressure.  EQ requires proper communication between the emotional and the rational centers of the brain.

The physical pathway of the senses into the brain travels through the spinal cord to the back of the brain, moving into the center limbic system (where you feel), finally moving to the front rational system (where you think).

Since all senses go through the feeling limbic portion before the rational brain, it’s easy to respond emotionally without allowing yourself time to rationally develop the proper response.

Look at the top NFL quarterbacks over the years, the Staubachs, Elways, and Montanas, all of them had EQ, a poise and confidence in their abilities, even with time running out and the game on the line, each responded with his entire brain, not just with emotional feelings.

Without EQ, people succumb to pressures, blaming others, and blowing up, creating chaos along with lack of results. Every world class leader must have EQ, thinking through situations, even when others start to panic, since panic is not a good strategy.

EQ begins with having a good attitude, but it move beyond it. EQ includes a strength of will that stands strong regardless of the situation. It requires a strength of mind that forces the brain to think instead of entering ‘fight or flight’ mode.

The greatest athletes and leaders all have a poise about them that strengthens the resolve of all of those following the leader. No great achievement can be fulfilled without leaders of great attitude and great EQ. The good news is that EQ, like a muscle, can be developed by placing oneself in increasing pressure situations over time.

Having a leader with high EQ is essential for others to learn from his or her poise on how to maintain composure even when others are losing theirs.

At the start of leadership, everyone will fail in EQ in different situations.  But over time, one learns to develop the internal fortitude to control one’s emotions, rather than have the emotions control them. Never let them see you sweat is a key principle in EQ based leadership.

Teammates will rally behind the EQ of the leader, developing a confidence that the leader will see them through. Conversely, if the leader lacks EQ, the team will panic, each one attempting to save his own skin, leaving the team and the team’s goals in shambles.

Attitude plus poise, plus strength of will, equals emotional intelligence quotient and every great leader must develop a high EQ. Remember, it’s not what happens to great leaders that counts as much as how great leaders handle what happens to them.

The story of Phineas Gage, as shared in the must read, Emotional Intelligence Quick Book, was instrumental in helping psychologists understand the workings of the mind. Here is a quick summary of his story.

Gage was a supervisor of a railroad crew, considered one of the best, for punctual work and leadership skills. In an on the job accident, while tamping gunpowder into a blasting hole, the powder exploded, sending a 43 inch long tamping iron through the frontal lobe of Gage’s brain.

Amazingly, Gage lived to tell the story!

But very quickly, others realized that he wasn’t the same man. Instead of his famed emotional control and leadership, Gage now lost his temper quickly, becoming emotionally unstable at the slightest provocation. He would curse like a sailor under stress, creating tension and chaos among his crew, responding to challenges radically different than his previous leadership style.

He went from being one of the best of crew leaders to being unemployed, simply because of his lack of emotional intelligence. Gage, unlike us, had an excuse, he literally lacked the frontal lobe where reasoning took place. It was physically impossible for him to reason through his feelings, but the many EQ impaired people in life, do not have the same physical excuse.

EQ is a simply a choice. A choice to slow down and think through the issues before reacting with feelings only. Yes, the senses will hit the ‘feeling’ part of the brain first, but with patience, one can wait for the senses to hit the ‘reasoning’ part also, responding with the whole brain in a high EQ style.

Leaders refuse to react to the emotional stimulus only, but choose a response after feeling and thinking, in other words, with a high emotional intelligence quotient.

How many times have we witnessed people lose their cool, at work, at the airport, or during a sports contest? Is this type of behavior drawing people towards the potential leader or repelling them? No one enjoys spending time with a hot-head.

People build friendships with people who have predictable behaviors. Meaning, its hard to be friends with someone who will hug you one day, and hit you the next. People with low EQ, have not mastered their own emotions; therefore, they cannot lead themselves, let alone, lead others.

All great victories in life begin with a victory over self. What happens when pressure builds in your life? How do you respond to the stress? If you don’t like the answers, welcome to the club.  But the good news is that you can change.

Before reacting to the stress emotionally, take a deep breath, forcing the mind to be still until one has time to reflect rationally, responding to the situation like a leader. It will take practice, but the results are well worth the investment.

When a person lifts his EQ, it has the opposite effect from Phineas Gage. Gage lost his EQ, when his lost that portion of his brain.  But we can gain EQ, by gaining the functionality of this portion of our brains through patient practice.

Learning to respond with EQ is one of the biggest changes in a person’s leadership journey, quickly noticeable to those following your leadership.

Great leaders must develop great EQ, exercising their emotional and rational brains repeatedly, creating mature responses in all leadership situations. An improved EQ leads to a greater level of respect and admiration from the community following ones leadership trail.

Success is in your daily habits. Each of us must build our habits by our daily responses, but eventually, our habits will build or break us.

What seeds are being planted in your garden? What weeds need to be pulled today, in order to provide fertile soil for the twelve resolutions for success?

Success is a personal choice, just as failure is a personal choice, because only the gardener can tend to his personal garden. Every garden leads to an abundant harvest, the only question being, whether the gardener harvests fruits or weeds.


Orrin Woodward is the co-founder of Team, a leadership development and training company, and the New York Times best-selling co-author of Launching a Leadership Revolution.

Named by the International Association of Business as a Top 10 Leadership Guru, he is dedicated to building leaders and entrepreneurs and promoting freedom and prosperity.

Orrin blogs regularly at Orrin Woodward. He lives in Port St. Lucie, Florida with his wife and four children.

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