What makes a good leader?

Q: What qualities make a good leader?

A: Besides emotional intelligence, every leader requires a certain high level of cognitive intelligence and technical skill. The specifics vary with the particular organization and position, but in general high-level executives need an IQ of around 110 or so to handle the cognitive complexity of their jobs. Beyond that a leader may need to have a high level of competence in particular technical skills – not because they use them in their work, but because they lead people who do, and need to have their respect.»

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Emotional intelligence in the classroom

Q: Is EI also crucial to a student’s success in the classroom? And if so, why?

A: EI is crucial for all life success, including for students in the classroom, because of the basic design of the brain.  Our emotions evolved as a tool for survival, and today emotions have a privileged position in the brain.  When we are upset the emotional centers can hijack the thinking centers, rendering us unable to think clearly, focus on the task at hand, perceive in an undistorted manner, and even make it harder to remember what’s relevant to what we’re doing (instead we remember easily anything about what’s upsetting us).»

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Goleman’s model of emotional intelligence

Q: What is your 2000 model of leadership all about?

A: My model of leadership has evolved over several years – there is no “Goleman 2000” model, but rather an evolution of my thought. The best source my thinking on leadership is my recent book Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence. There you can read my earliest ideas, the chapter “Managing with Heart” from my 1995 book Emotional Intelligence, my 1998 and 2000 Harvard Business Review articles “What Makes a Leader” and “Leadership That Gets Results,” straight through to last year’s The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights.

As I continue to follow the emerging data from neuroscience and psychology, my understanding of the human qualities that allow outstanding leadership has changed.»

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Timing SEL

Q: At what age can students begin to learn skills that can help them improve their EI?

A: Children begin to learn these skills from the moment of their first interaction with another human being. The mirror neuron system, which mimics in our own brain what we observe in another person’s movements, emotions and intentions, lets infants map on their own brain what they see others do – they start learning how to be a human being. With language toddlers get another key tool in learning social-emotional skills – and gain the ability to talk to themselves about it. By the time a child enters school she is a master at learning these basic human abilities.»

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Enhancing emotional intelligence

Q: You explain that emotional intelligence has four parts: self-awareness, managing emotions, empathy and social skills. Is it possible to enhance them, with practice or training?

A: Emotional intelligence competencies are learned – and can be improved at any point in life. But first you have to be motivated – ask yourself if you really care. Then you need a well-structured learning situation where, for instance, you have a clear picture of what you want to improve, and can practice specific behaviors that will help you enhance the targeted competence.»

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Schools and EI

Q: Is it possible to boost students’ EI through teaching them skills in social and emotional learning, and if so, how are schools today doing this? Or how should they be doing this?

A: Yes, definitely. It’s called “social-emotional learning (SEL),” and teaches the gamut of EI skills.  The lessons are, for example, simulations of everyday childhood crises (He stole my crayon! They won’t play with me!) with kids brainstorming what works and what does not. Or reflecting on their feelings and what caused them. Or, say, remembering to pause and think about consequences before your act when you’re upset.

These curricula are designed to embed seamlessly in standard courses, from gym and English to math, as well as stand-alone weekly modules that might last 15 minutes. »

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Emotional intelligence and leadership

Q: Why are highly emotionally intelligent individuals are effective leaders ?

A: No matter what a leader’s strategy or vision may be, it can only be achieved through the combined efforts of everyone involved–never by the leader alone. The leader needs to communicate, inspire, listen, dialogue, motivate. And all those require emotional intelligence.»

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EI and keeping in line with one’s goals

Q: What would be the one thing you would suggest so one could be aware on the spot that her emotions are activated against her will and pulling her into a direction that is not aligned with her goals?

A: Mindfulness. This attentional training enhances what cognitive scientists call meta-awareness, the ability to monitor your own mind and emotions moment by moment. This lets you see an emotion build and manage it so your actions align with your goals»

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Emotional intelligence and stress

Q: Does emotional intelligence cause stress? I am a student and practitioner of EI and also your admirer for your extensive work on this comprehensive behavioral system. However, I have experienced stress occasionally for not being able to speak my mind candidly in order to be emotionally intelligent in dealing with others.

A: Emotional intelligence should help you handle stress better, for several reasons. There are four parts to EI: self-awareness, self-management, empathy and social skill.  Self-awareness  can help you notice when you are becoming stressed, which in turn make you better able to calm down before your reaction builds to an unmanageable level.»

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Money is emotional

Q:   I work with my wife. I am a psychologist, financial analyst and family business consultant. She is a financial planner. I have been struck by the need for emotional intelligence regarding money and finance, but have not seen any writings specifically directed at that area. Any resources or ideas that you would recommend as helpful?

A: If there’s any topic that arouses the amygdala – the brain’s center for hope and fear – it’s money.  The connection between emotions and thinking about financial decisions is the focus of the relatively new field of neuroeconomics. These brain scans typically show how irrational we really are while making what we think are rational decisions – especially about money.»

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