LAFDLA – What is Emotional Intelligence?

May 31, 2019

This is the first in a series of articles inspired by the courses taught at the LAFD Leadership Academy. The series will examine the building blocks of successful leadership. This article was adapted by the Grapevine’s Alicia Iwakiri from a presentation by Isaac Yang, Division Chief, Redondo Beach FD.

What makes a leader? Is it your rank and duties, or the knowledge of what you bring to the table for others? Some think success in the workplace is predicted by IQ and expertise, but IQ only gives you about a 25% success value and expertise another 25%. The other 50% – the missing piece – is the ability to connect with people. This is where true leadership lies.

According to author and speaker John Maxwell, there are five levels of leadership:
1. Position
2. Permission
3. Production
4. People Development
5. Personhood

“People don’t care about how much you know…if they don’t know how much you care”

Position is the level of rights. This is the lowest level of leadership – people follow you because they have to, whether they want to or not. Your influence doesn’t extend beyond the lines of your job description; or the color of your helmet. Being a real leader is developing, building, creating, and fostering others even though these responsibilities are not clearly defined as your duties.

Permission is the level of relationships. A leader at this level fosters relationships, and those that follow you believe and trust in you. The people who follow you are not just compliant but willing.

Production is the level of results. People follow a leader at this level because of recognized accomplishments. Here, problems are solved with minimal effort and production is high. Most people perceive this level as success.

People development is the level of reproduction. A leader at this level is valuable and resourceful to others, and committed to developing other leaders to ensure ongoing growth. At this level, leaders are constantly striving to help others find their potential.

Personhood is the level of respect. People follow this level of leadership because of who you are, what you represent, and your values. You execute your position well, invest in others’ success, and gain their respect. People see success in you. When we attain this level of leadership, we often think we’re done and have reached the pinnacle, but we must keep growing because someone else will get to this level too, requiring us to start all over again.

If you look from level one to level five, there is a decrease in duties-based leadership and an increase in growing people and relationships. We all know the authority of our duties, but often overlook the people we work with and serve. This is that other 50% – it’s called Emotional Intelligence.

Emotional intelligence requires vulnerability, which may seem contraindicative to the alpha occupation of firefighter. Emotional intelligence is based on awareness – not just compliance to policies and procedures. If you are only performing the things that you have to do, there is no purpose or motivation to what you are doing. This makes you a compliance officer instead of a leader.

We assume loyalty, commitment, faithfulness, and desire are traits instilled in our culture, but they’re not. Mere compliance doesn’t allow these characteristics to flourish. The common phrase “IGM” or I Got Mine is an illustration of how far culture has shifted. This selfish attitude prevails because no one is fighting for each other or fostering one another. We often forget that we work with people, and people have needs. People don’t care about how much you know if they don’t know how much you care.

Leadership through emotional intelligence is the art of awareness. It’s the ability to manage yourself before you manage others. Leadership isn’t black and white – it’s grey and adaptive, to where you can change people’s hearts and minds.


WHERE: The Frank Hotchkin Memorial Training Center
COST: At the present time there is no cost to attend the
LAFD Leadership Academy
• QUESTIONS: Craig Poulson, Captain I, In-Service Training Section at (213) 893-9838 or email:

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