If you think about the qualities of a person whom you’ve interacted with and admire as a leader, does the person seem to have extra-sensory perceptions about everything? Do they know the right thing to say at the right moment? Do they seem to understand you when you bring forward a problem or issue? Do they inspire you to do better, to take on a challenge, because somehow, things are going to be a-okay no matter what happens?

It’s not that this person knows everything (no one does, not even us librarians), but instead it’s the result of a finely tuned capacity to recognize one’s own emotions and the emotions of others and to respond productively to these emotions, otherwise known as Emotional Intelligence.

The ability to work effectively with others through an understanding of emotions may sound like touchy-feely, Kumbaya type of stuff, but how we recognize, react and manage our own emotions is fundamentally rooted in brain science. In very, very rudimentary terms, when we’re in a situation where the part of the brain, the amygdala, triggers “fight-or-flight” cocktail of hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, blood rushes away from our brain leaving our capacity to think, process and essentially respond reasonably is severely limited.

Emotional Intelligence is, in part, the ability to pause, slow down, and restore blood flow to the brain. It’s something that, with practice, can be trained in all of us. It’s the cool as a cucumber mentality even in the hottest of moments.

Cool as a Cucumber
by Vera Kratochvil retrieved from http://pixabay.com/en/breakfast-dinner-egg-food-fresh-21874/

Though Emotional Intelligence stems from research on leaders and leadership, the components of Emotional Intelligence, self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills, are valuable to anyone who wants to be more effective in their professional and personal lives.

I think what’s great about Emotional Intelligence is that it’s something we can change, we can improve upon throughout our lives.

If you’re interested in learning more about Emotional Intelligence, I recommend starting with the following classic article:

Goleman, D. (1998). What Makes a Leader?. Harvard Business Review, 76(6), 93-102.