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The Emotional Intelligence of Leaders

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LaKisha Kee

Assignment 3- Critical Thinking

January 27, 2015


        After reading Goleman’s article “The Emotional Intelligence of Leaders”, I understood the direction the author was going in regarding his major conclusions on the importance of emotional intelligence in leaders.  The article starts off with the author providing a background scenario for the reader to connect to.  This allowed me to gain some insight about the direction the author wanted to take his article.  The example of the $5 flying in the wind that Goleman gave to a wheelchair bound homeless man and a good samaritan assisting in helping the homeless man get his money back set the stage for the discussion of true leadership and emotional presence which the author elaborates throughout the article.

        The article provides a breakdown of how human emotions are developed.  The human brain plays a major role in emotions.  Emotions tend to make humans feel something and we sometimes react quickly and forcefully.  For example, if my boss scolded me in front of the entire team about a project no turning out the way he intended, my feelings may get hurt.  The feeling of embarrassment which may lead to me being angry with him and retaliating by yelling something back at him is an emotional instinct that was triggered by how my boss made me feel.

        Goleman believes there are “five dimensions of emotional intelligence…which is also the foundation for specific capabilities of leadership” Goleman (1998).  The first he calls                            “self-awareness” Goleman (1998).  I understood this as being over analyzing and contemplating events in our life instead of paying attention to our feelings.  I tend to be this way all the time.  I plan out my wardrobe for the work week, I set the alarm on my phone to remind myself of things I need to do around the house and  I overanalyze life’s situations-which isn’t necessarily a bad thing- allows me to keep track of what matters most to me.  Being self-aware can lead to being confident.  When I am faced with a life changing decision such as switching jobs, I lay out the game plan; make my decision and move forward feeling confident in my choice.  If leaders took this approach and applied it in their decision making, there may be stronger leaders in our organizations.

        A good leadership skill to exemplify is how to handle emotions. This can be very difficult because humans are emotional creatures and it is hard to separate your personal life from the work world. Leaders should exude self-control when dealing with emotions. Stressful situations can bring out emotions that may be difficult to handle. For example, if one person on team is feeling overwhelmed about a group project, their emotions may get the best of them and they might start to exhibit anger and take out their frustrations on the entire team.  That is why it is critical for leaders to learn how to manage emotions.  

 Motivation is the key to success.  The ability to motivate others while hoping and expecting the best outcome allows us to jump obstacles that may be in the way.  Goleman makes the point that if leaders are approached with a stumbling block, everyone will be tuned in to see the reaction.  Leaders must remain optimistic if they intend to learn and grow from the setback. Remaining positive and inspiring others even in the midst of a storm are the makings of a leader.

             Goleman believes showing empathy is the “ability to read emotions in others” Goleman (1998).  People express emotions by gestures more than expressing themselves with their actions. This point reminded me of the famous expression I always heard growing up “actions speak louder than words”.  It is important for me to express myself and have my boss or the person in the leadership position be empathetic to my feelings.  Leaders that lack empathy in the workplace can be problematic.  Leaders that take the opportunity to get to know employees from diverse backgrounds help to build team comradery and make the employees feel a level of closeness to their employer. I could not work on a job where there are leaders that outwardly show no compassion for their employees.  This will make a hostile work environment and essentially the company will become unsuccessful.  

            The last dimension described in the article describes how leaders should “stay connected” Goleman (1998).  Leaders should always stay in tune with their emotions because it affects the entire group.  If leaders display kind spirited attitudes, employees will respond in that same manner.  The energy a person puts out is what is expected in return.  There must be a sense of togetherness within a group to do well. I once worked for a company where it was every man for himself.  The leader at my job hardly ever spoke or came out of his office to engage his employees in any way and when he did, it was to complain about something that the team didn’t do to his liking. The more he complained and chastised my team, the more resentful we became. One by one, the team started to give up and eventually it became too much for me to bear so I ended up seeking employment elsewhere. I loved that job but hated my boss and because of his bad energy all the time, he lost some awesome employees.

            Certain behaviors an adult exhibit are a result of a childhood upbringing.  I was taught at a very young age to always say “please” and “thank you”.  My grandmother taught me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, to not say anything at all and believe it or not, remembering that has helped me through some difficult times in my personal life and in the workplace.  People who do not know where some of their negative behaviors come from may need a little assistance with delving into identifying the root cause.  Goleman explains that a person first has to identify the negativity, try to breakdown the original manner in which it was learned and replace with positivity.  This will take some time and leaders should not expect behaviors to change overnight.  

              In conclusion, Goleman wraps up the article by explaining how technology plays a role in the upbringing of our future leaders. Parents are responsible for engaging children so they are socially well rounded. We live in the digital age where texting, video games, and instant messenger allow everyone to interact without really developing the important cognitive skills needed to be successful in the future.  Learning how to properly manage emotions and interact with others helps build leaders.  When we are the best we can be on the job and in our personal life, we are more efficient and build better organizations.



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