Emotional Intelligence – Do You Have It?

June 30, 2019

This is the second in a series of articles inspired by the courses taught at the LAFD Leadership Academy examining the building blocks of successful leadership. This is part two from a presentation by Isaac Yang, Division Chief, Redondo Beach FD, adapted for the Grapevine by Alicia Iwakiri and Dave Wagner.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to be aware of and control your emotions, perceive others’ emotions, and empathetically handle interpersonal relationships. Without it you become a compliance officer, simply complying to the policies and procedures of the Department. Your performance as a leader will lack motivation or purpose.

In their book Leadership on the Line, authors Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky relate that people address issues as either technical problems or adaptive challenges. Confronting concerns as technical problems is where most people reside. Why? Because technical problems can be solved by simply complying to processes and procedures, or rules and regulations. This way problems become black and white – either you’re following the rules or you’re not. With this kind of compliance, you don’t need to think. Adaptive challenges connect the head with the heart of the solution, meaning it connects the issues with people. With an adaptive challenge, you must analyze situations and adapt to each one individually.

“You’re not a bad person if you’re mad,
but you must understand why you’re mad
and recognize the situation”

If you deal with everything as a technical problem, you aren’t seeing people as people, but as liabilities. For example, you’ll see progressive discipline as a negative thing, instead of a way to “grow people” by helping them get to where they need and want to be. To be able to respond to adaptive challenges, you need Emotional Intelligence. Without it, the Department simply becomes an organization of liability with no loyalty to its people.

There are five components to Emotional Intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. These five components are split into two categories: personal competence and social competence.

Personal competence is how we handle ourselves. It includes self-awareness – knowing your internal states, preferences, resources, and intuitions; self-regulation – managing your internal states, impulses, and resources; and motivation – moving toward achievement goals. How aware is the average person on how the pushes and pulls of everyday life affect them? Do they realize what’s happening around them or are they just going through the motions? Time flies, and if you’re not paying attention you’ll continue living with no motivation or purpose, simply clocking in and out when needed.

Social competence is how we handle relationships. It includes empathy – having awareness of others’ feelings, needs, and concerns; and social skills – adeptness at including desirable responses in others. When you work with people you need to recognize that people have needs. Aside from just performing your regular duties, what makes you valuable to the people around you?

Having high Emotional Intelligence doesn’t mean you can’t get upset or angry. You’re not a bad person if you’re mad, but you must understand why you‘re mad and recognize the situation. You must know where you’re at, where everyone else is at, and how to be empathetic and productive within it. Balancing personal competence and social competence to the best of your ability is an art. Having high Emotional Intelligence will help you to become a better person, a better firefighter and enable you become a leader.

How Emotionally Intelligent Are You?

Give yourself an honest evaluation, answering each statement with “Never” “Sometimes” or “Often.” Evaluate each statement not as you think you should be, but as you actually are.

1. I know my own strengths and weaknesses.
2. I control my temper when I feel frustrated.
3. I am comfortable confronting conflict whenever possible.
4. I understand my emotions as I experience them.
5. I’ve been told that I’m a good listener.
6. I can calm myself down when I feel upset.
7. I find it easy to read other people’s emotions.
8. I can readily move beyond my frustration or unhappiness.
9. I ask people for feedback on how I can improve.
10. I set long-term goals, and regularly review my progress.

If your answers included a lot of “Nevers” you’ll need to work on your emotional intelligence. Stressful situations might overwhelm you, or you may avoid conflict because you find it uncomfortable.

If you responded “Sometimes” to many of the situations, you probably have good relationships with some of your coworkers, but find that others may be more difficult to work with.

If a majority of your answers were “Often” then you are on the right track. You probably find that people approach you for advice and you can keep your emotions in check.

Researchers have found that emotionally intelligent people often have great leadership potential. Whatever your answers on this quiz, you can realize this potential by seeking opportunities to improve even further.

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