Head, heart or gut ?

Cartoon from Internet

Ever since Daniel Goleman wrote his seminal book, Emotional Intelligence or EQ has become one most frequently used (and much abused) jargon of leadership conversations.

Often the discussion would degenerate into the time worn debate of Head Vs Heart — though emotions too, like other faculties, reside in the brain.

Of late, the concept of EQ is transcending to Spiritual Quotient — which is even more abstract. Words such as empathy, sensitivity, awareness are part of the new vocabulary.

But, the definition Emotional Intelligence, like many other subjective concepts, is elusive. At the work-place those who are superficially perceived as possessing high Emotional Quotient (EQ) attract labels such as — charming, diplomatic, charismatic and, at times, manipulative. Take for instance, in politics Bill Clinton was seen to possess phenomenal EQ. Enough said.

In contrast, those who overtly display some of the softer qualities (of the ‘heart’ if one may call it) mentioned earlier they are seen to be lacking a killer instinct — so necessary, as most believe, to survive in today’s competitive environment.

Equally it is easy to mistake an introvert as EQ challenged just as people automatically brand those with personal angularities as severe cases of EI deficiency.

It will be both fallacious and impossible to try to draw inferences about a person’s Emotional Intelligence from external traits. A highly cerebral (read IQ) person may be gifted with exceptional EQ at a subconscious level. Whereas there is no guarantee that someone with a heart of gold, as it were, is also a repository of EI.

So what is the litmus test, if any? In our view, if Leadership is as much of an art as a science — like all practical disciplines — the proof of the pudding lies in personal effectiveness.

An effective (as distinct from efficient) individual — is in charge (different from control) of his/her emotions. That essentially has to begin with the self. If we do not know ourselves well, it would be foolish to understand others — let alone meaningfully engage with them. Therefore, self-awareness is the starting point.

Self awareness goes much beyond just emotions. It includes one’s beliefs, values and goal in life. It recognises one’s strength as well as vulnerabilities. Thus taking stock of the ‘totality’ of the self — one moves forward responsibly willing to accept accountability for own actions.

This calls for continuos centring. That does not mean one does not make mistakes. But, keeping the centre of (emotional) gravity in place — one can minimise the risk of overturning and losing balance.

This also raises the perennial question of nature vs nurture. Are leaders born or made? Is EQ something that can be cultivated?

It is a truism to say, none of us are born perfect. But, like a musician has to tune his/her instrument periodically — an Emotionally Intelligent person checks the alignment of the Head, Heart and Gut to stay on course and maximise personal effectiveness.

It is here that #coaching comes in. A coach can help — but at the end of the day the best coaching is self-coaching and that is what Emotionally Intelligent people are good at

(The author is an ICF accredited PCC . He specialises in coaching high-potential young professionals aspiring for CXO positions and students pursuing professional courses. He can be reached at sandipranjanghose@gmail.com)