"Emotional Intelligence" is a much used and abused term. The concept of an emotional intelligence was first raised by the researcher John Mayer who together with Dr. Peter Salovey developed the idea of EI and later emotional knowledge - a metacognition of a representation of the emotions.
Outside of the current debate about the measurement of emotional intelligence, a useful definition for emotional intelligence is:
An ability, capacity, or skill to perceive, assess, and manage the emotions of one's self, of others, and of groups.
This is worth thinking about in the context of leadership, problems solving and ambiguity. Defining EI as an ability, capacity or skill suggests that ones EI can be raised or developed. Mayer talks much about this and one of the central arguments about EI is whether it is a fixed attribute or whether it can be developed. Notwithstanding this, my argument here is that the ability to perceive or recognise our emotions can be developed (or raised) as can the ability to control and manage those emotions.
Further, that if emotions can affect our behaviours, interpretations and thinking then those behaviours, interpretations and thoughts are more likely to be historically based reactions rather than contextually sound actions based on some form of logic. For example a person who is frightened or in some other emotional state is more likely to react differently to a situation than if they were in a more stable, emotionally neutral state where they could apply a logic not contaminated by emotion. The idea is that emotionally intelligent people can identify what emotional state they are in at any time and understand the affect this is having on their perceptions of the situation, their behaviours and their cognitions. People who are not as emotionally intelligent are more likely to be at the mercy of their emotions in that they will colour and change their perceptions of reality, their behaviour and the way they think and think about their thinking and emotions without being aware of this.
We all probably know leaders like this.
In my next post I will explore the affect of this on how leaders deal with ambiguity.
Oh yes what is the picture all about? The Amygdala at the centre of the brain are almond-shaped groups of neurons located deep within the medial temporal lobes of the brain in complex vertebrates, including humans. Shown in research to perform a primary role in the processing and memory of emotional reactions. More about this later.