Article: Leadership and emotional intelligence

Employee Engagement

Leadership and emotional intelligence

EI provides unique psychological resources to exert cognitive regulation over negative effects of emotions, whether positive or negative, to maintain the leaders’ vision or value driven behavior.
Leadership and emotional intelligence

Leadership emerges under highly volatile conditions, especially when the situations go against a person. And when people are finding an effective solution under such constrained situations, they develop various competencies such as risk taking, impulse control, resilience, optimism, passion, tolerance, etc. In the modern psychological sciences, these competencies are termed “Emotional Intelligence” (EI).

EI provides unique psychological resources to exert cognitive regulation over negative effects of emotions, whether positive or negative, to maintain the leaders’ vision or value driven behavior. In simple words, EI is defined as cognitively controlled affective (emotional) processes to perform under stressful conditions. For example, EI is required when a person or a team loses a couple of matches e.g., Indian women hockey team lost their first three matches then won next three matches and entered into the semi-final. Thus it is EI that helps manage the stress generated after consecutive successes or defeats. Otherwise, sadness, grief, fear, anxiety could have taken over their mental capacities, hence it simply means that intelligence (IQ) works well when emotions are kept under control because rationality is not an absolute construct rather it is bounded by personal and situational constraints. It facilitates in regulating the emotions in self and others both. 

Meanwhile, emotions release a sustainable source of energy that helps achieve one’s long-term vision and mission of transformation for an organization or a country. Under highly stressful conditions, if emotions of fear, anxiety, lust, rage, greed, attachment, ego and jealousy are not effectively regulated by the leaders, then IQ fails to provide an effective solution of personal and professional problems. For example, soldiers who sacrifice their life for the country are able to regulate their emotions (fear or anxiety) favorably while successful people, sometimes, commit suicide or can fall psychologically sick when unable to regulate such emotions due to sudden failures or an attachment with results.

Moreover, IQ-based predictions seem to be limited while one is making a career decision or appearing for a competitive exam. Most entrance tests like IIT-JEE, CAT, GRE, and GMAT, etc. measure one’s cognitive capabilities under ideal conditions. When an aspirant fails to face the psychological pressures of these exams or unable to regulate the attachment with the results then it can cause one’s nervous breakdown. In the worst case scenario, it leads to developing suicidal tendencies. In India, almost 9,905 bright students commit suicide every year because they are unable to cope with the pressure of these competitive exams, even though they are brilliant in their academics. It also happens with even successful people when they are either not promoted or not duly recognized for their efforts and then they become dissatisfied or unhappy in their personal or professional life. They develop withdrawal symptoms in the form of silence or exit. This is where the model of EI plays a significant role as it provides a more effective solution for the development of psychological competencies like resilience, optimism, patience, passion, and many more. There are instances when repeated failures make an individual stronger. Take the example of a spider, who is building its web - it falls and fails but never gives up. For instance, Dasrath Manjhi worked for 22 years to carve out a road by cutting a Gehlaur hills in Gaya district. Arunima Sinha climbed Mount Everest after losing one leg in a train accident. Thus EI promotes sustained efforts by regulating one’s emotions of success or failure and happiness or sadness both. This is an attitude that needs to be developed. EI perspective does not see life in terms of one-time successes or failures rather helps focusing on a status of equanimity for an inner peace and harmony.

For any human being or a working professional, the conditions never remain the same because the external environment is not directly in someone’s control; rather it is an ever-changing phenomenon. Those who lack psychological resources in the form of “emotional intelligence” might be carried away by the situational influence of life, like death of a loved one, loss of job in COVID-19, success or failure in sports or movies or exams while falling under a trap of either comfort or fear. It is no secret that emotions have the potential to affect your cognitive processes, and that need to be regulated to remain “effort focused” than “result focused”. EI regulates this shift. 

Individuals or teams with high EI competencies focus on putting extraordinary efforts without getting worried about the results, consequently, experience more contentment in life. Leaders’ EI makes them aware of their emotions and help them empathize with others, in effective discharge of their duties and in managing one’s frustrations, conflicts and pressures at work places and in life. Leaders are leaders because they are able to regulate their nasty emotions, and successfully convert their pains or miseries into a strong vision. In fact, obstacles and sufferings are welcomed by leaders as it nourishes their EI competencies, for example a lotus grows in the mud, diamond needs high temperature and strong pressure and sowing seeds in the ground to grow plants and trees. In nutshell, leadership, EI competencies and adverse conditions are intertwined with each other. Lets welcome obstacles, don't complain if you want to grow as a leader. 


This article was first published in September 2021.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Leadership, #GuestArticle, #MentalHealth

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