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THE ‘IT’ FACTOR
by the rule, ‘Experience doesn’t make up for
education, and education doesn’t make up for
talent.’ The most important factor in that rule
is talent, but it’s also the hardest to gauge. It’s
hard to qualify someone’s ability to lead an
organization without actually hiring them into
a leadership position.
In many cases, the talent that we’re talking
about here is EI. Does a potential leader have
the ability to control themselves in tough situations, relate to people in a meaningful way and
motivate a workforce to accomplish its mission?
Upon its initial emergence several decades
back, it was thought that EI was organic and
intrinsic. As is the case with cognitive intelli-
gence, there will always be others out there who
are naturally gifted with a high degree of EI.
However, as neuroscientists began to study and
understand neuroplasticity, they also discovered
that EI is a talent and skill that can be honed.
So then how does one ultimately increase
their own EI? Practice. There are three steps
that new and emerging leaders can use as they
work towards strengthening their EI.
Prior to attempting to strengthen your EI,
it’s important that you find an environment
where you feel emotionally comfortable. You
must be able to take a hard look at what triggers
and controls your own emotions. It’s difficult
to examine and manage your own emotions if
they’re always guarded by the fear of embar-
rassment. Try working with close friends and
family first. Hopefully, these are people that
you’re able to let your guard down with and
talk genuinely about introspection.
The first step in improving your EI is also the
most basic: Think before you act. So much of
EI is managing your own emotions and actions.
The emotional centers of your brain process
stimuli faster than the rational centers. Lead-
ers must constantly restrict the emotional cen-
ters of the brain from controlling their actions.
When I see or hear someone coming to me in
a state that’s highly emotional and volatile, I
immediately begin slowing my thoughts down
and repeating in my head, “Think it through,
think it through.” Volatility is contagious if
you’re not prepared for it. Going into a situa-
tion with an understanding that you are going
to think things through is a great strategy for
preventing an emotional, knee-jerk reaction.
Next, empathize with those around you.
Actively listen and take a genuine interest in
what people are saying. Pay special attention
to word choice and nonverbal cues. Try hard
to understand what a person is feeling, why a
person is feeling it and how those feelings are
impacting their behaviors. This takes lots of
practice. One of the keys to reading a person’s
emotions is being genuinely concerned with the
reasons why a person feels the way they do. It’s
difficult to read a person’s emotions if you
don’t really care.
Lastly, reflect on your interactions with
people daily. I can’t tell you the number of
times that I’ve looked back on a conversation and said, “Well, I messed that up.”
And that’s ok! Being able to examine what
you said, why you said it and how others
reacted to it is a very crucial skill needed
for strengthening your EI. It allows you
the chance to reshape and focus your skills.
Reflection allows you to learn from your
mistakes and successes, and improve and
strengthen your EI. Ultimately, you’re trying to relate your behaviors and thoughts
to the principles and skills of strong EI.
(See Figure 2, p. 44.)
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
This article has spent a lot of time talking
about feelings and emotions. This isn’t
Try hard to understand what a person is feeling, why a person is feeling it and how those feelings are
impacting their behaviors.