Tuesday Morning Focal Point

Understanding Emotional Agility and Leadership

December 1, 2020

Have you ever wondered what it means as a leader to have emotional intelligence?  Have you wondered what qualities you possess that lead to your emotional responses? Do you know how they impact your ability to lead effectively?  Do you notice that sometimes your emotional responses don’t seem to make sense, and even aren’t always consistent? 

How important is it to be able to tune into both yourself and others in the workplace? Tuning in when casting a vision, creating action or responding to unexpected challenges. 

Emotional Intelligence

This blog is the first in a three-part series on emotional intelligence.  Upcoming blogs will include a focus each emotional qualities and emotional reactors.  There are eight of each.  Each one of us scores differently in this range of qualities. As well, in how we react in a range of circumstances. 

There is a complex interplay of factors that underlie who we are in the emotional world and how we go about interacting with the emotional field. This emotional field exists in the room. This emotional field exists in a meeting. It even exists on a phone call with one or more others.  To make it even more complex, we all have multiple personas that might show up in any given field. The persona that shows up depends on whether we are alone, with our most trusted confidants, in more of a public setting or if we are under stress and pressure. 

Underlying all of this are the emotional agilities.  How we land in our emotional agilities determines the extent to which we can live the life we want every day, functioning and being capable.  We require agility to adapt and manage our emotions day to day. This agility allows us to guide effective thinking and meaningful behaviour.    

Being Self Aware

The first and most foundational of all the agilities is “Being Self-Aware”. If you are not self-aware, you don’t understand your emotions.  Your ability to pay attention to and understand your own emotions is the foundational piece to emotional intelligence.  If you cannot understand you, you cannot understand anyone else.  Understanding your own emotions includes noticing your internal narrative or “self-talk”.

Awareness of Others

Second, we all need agility in the area of “Awareness of Others” and understanding the emotions of others.  It does limited good to any of us to only understand our own emotions.  We need to be able to match our own emotional experience up against what is happening in others.  This in many ways is what separates individuals with high IQ from those with low IQ.  If you can read the emotional field that is going on for those you encounter, you are advanced way beyond just your self-awareness.  This is like listening at a very different level…only you’re not listening to language, you’re listening to that “felt sense.” 

Managing Our Emotions

The third agility is all about “Managing our emotions”.  You can have all the insight in the world, but if you cannot apply that insight into some kind of intentionality, what’s the point?  Right, there is no point.  To manage our emotions is to be able to fully process our emotions and do so quickly in most circumstances.  Insight alone is not enough.  We need to be able to not only assign meaning, but to make quick sense of that meaning in terms of what it means in our broader interactions.  The meanings only apply in a real sense, when we determine what we show to others, and how we show it.  Being emotionally agile requires us to be able to “flex” or “adapt” our emotional response to the context. Not too big and not too small of a response to the context of the situation at hand.

Take Meaningful Action

Finally, if we can be fully agile in terms of our emotions, we are able to “Take Meaningful Action.”  This is of course is in direct contrast to “reactive” responses that are not deliberate and intentional but rather are instinctive, too often from the survival instinct when the amygdala sends a danger signal.  Fight, flight and freeze responses are not that sophisticated. They can often have us returning to ask forgiveness or having to back up and clean up a mess.  None of us benefit fully from secondary emotional responses that result in instinctive survival behaviours.

Rather, when we can step back and go a little deeper internally. Then select the most adaptive response, we are far more agile.   That is what meaningful action is all about.  It is about choosing behaviours that align with our values. As a result, we have the confidence that our action can help us achieve our goals.

How agile are you?  Where would you score in terms of these important agilities?

Cameron’s Call to Action

  1. Begin to notice and monitor these agilities in yourself. See what you notice. 
  2. Consider participating in a proven psychometric on Emotion and Emotional Intelligence, like our Lumina Emotion tool.
  3. Keep an eye out for our next two blogs. These will feature and focus on Emotional Qualities and Emotional Reactors respectively.
  4. Select two or three people you trust and ask them to offer you feedback. The feedback you are looking for is related to the way in which they experience you. How they experience you in terms of accurately reading and responding to the emotional field in your workplace.

Cameron is an Executive Coach and Consultant specializing in business growth and creating psychologically healthy workplaces.