Leadership and Emotional Quotient

There was a time when Intelligence Quotient was the main factor in predicting the success of an individual. Over time we have discovered there are more factors to consider, one of which being emotional quotient: the skill in managing one’s emotions. Effective leaders have developed the ability to sense, understand, and apply emotions; to achieve a greater level of productivity and seamless collaboration.

How The Brain Processes Emotions

The brain’s processing of emotions is a complex and intricate process, involving various brain regions and neurotransmitter systems. Here’s a simplified overview:

1. Limbic System

This is the primary area involved in emotional processing. The limbic system is a group of interconnected structures located deep within the brain. It’s the oldest part of the brain in evolutionary terms and is involved in many of our emotions and motivations, particularly those that are related to survival, such as fear and anger.

2. Key Structures within the Limbic System

Amygdala: This almond-shaped set of neurons plays a crucial role in processing emotions like fear, anger, and pleasure. The amygdala is also involved in determining what memories are stored and where they are stored in the brain. It is particularly keyed to negative emotions.

Hippocampus: Mainly associated with memory and the contextualization of emotions. The hippocampus helps connect emotions to specific memories.

Hypothalamus: This structure regulates the autonomic nervous system, which controls bodily functions like heart rate and digestion. It also plays a role in emotional responses and can trigger the release of hormones in response to stress.

3. Neurotransmitters

Chemicals in the brain also play a crucial role in emotion. Different neurotransmitters are associated with different types of feelings. For example:

Serotonin: Influences mood, often bringing a sense of calm and well-being.

Dopamine: Associated with pleasure and reward.

Norepinephrine: Influences arousal and alertness, often heightened in stressful situations.

4. Prefrontal Cortex

This part of the brain is involved in planning complex cognitive behaviour, personality expression, decision-making, and moderating social behaviour. It helps in regulating emotional responses through its connections with the limbic system.

5. Interaction with Other Brain Regions

Emotional processing is not limited to the limbic system. The brain is highly interconnected, and many other regions contribute to the processing and regulation of emotions. For instance, the insula is thought to be involved in the experience of bodily emotions, such as gut feelings.

6. Feedback Loops

The brain has feedback systems that monitor and adjust emotional responses. For example, the prefrontal cortex can modulate the intensity of emotional responses generated in the limbic system, and the body’s physiological response to emotion (like a racing heart) can in turn influence brain activity.

7. Neuroplasticity and Emotions

The brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life means that our emotional responses and thresholds can change based on experiences, learning, and environmental factors.

Understanding how the brain processes emotions is crucial for comprehending various psychological conditions and for developing effective treatments for emotional disorders. However, it’s important to note that this is a rapidly evolving field, and new research continues to shed light on these complex processes.

Principles To Improve Emotional Quotient

The following principles are the first step in an exciting journey of self-improvement and improving your emotional quotient.


The ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others.

I have had the honour to work with some talented people on different projects. They all similarly handled day-to-day situations.  Also, they all had this calmness and confidence in themselves. They had mastered their emotional quotient and moods in order not to negatively affect others around them. Not only were they aware of their emotions. They also could sense and recognize others’ emotional states as well. The last thing a teammate needs during a stressful event is their leader losing control and going on a frantic tirade.  Once a leader gives in to fear it spreads throughout the group like a plague. Chaos quickly follows. Trust in leadership is lost.  it is nearly impossible to recover from such a breakdown.

Teammates detach and form a group within a group to compensate for the lack of leadership. Teammates lose respect for the leadership and all credibility disappears concerning leadership. This creates more tension, which may provoke an undisciplined leader to exhibit even more disruptive behaviour. A self-aware leader would pick up on the negative emotions of his team, and attempt to make things right. The only option left for the leader to turn this situation around is self-regulation.


The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods and the propensity to suspend judgment and think before acting.

It gets hard sometimes to resist the temptation to act without considering the consequences in seemingly desperate situations. I can’t tell you how many times I have avoided some horrible decisions by just taking the time to step back and pause.  You will recover the time and opportunities you think you have lost. Well-thought-out plans will also help to save time.  In today’s professional arenas, it is not uncommon to have multiple fires to put out constantly. This is the time to redirect any anxieties towards a viable solution. A clear mind is essential to accomplish multiple goals for all involved.

Blaming others

It’s easy to react by blaming others, but that doesn’t get us any closer to mending the situation. Motivation is the key to staying focused on mastering your ability to control your emotions, to reach your goal. This process does not happen overnight. It takes practice and determination to change bad habits. The only way to practice is to be placed in situations that provoke emotional reactions, and then be able to do the right thing under pressure. Accountability may provide some helpful feedback to evaluate responses. Find someone who will give you an honest assessment of how you handle a particular situation. A key component in continuing to improve is proper motivation. Once that motivation is found it will be apparent to your teammates and they will be inspired to move forward together as a team.


A passion to work for reasons that go beyond money and status and a propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence.

Wealth and status are mistakenly considered enough motivation to pursue goals. However, if there is no passion to persistently drive us to our goals, then that increases the chances of us falling short of what we initially set out to do. Proper motivation does not come solely from the fact that we have to do something. When I was younger my mother would give me chores that needed to be completed within a certain time frame. I had no passion whatsoever to complete these tasks. The tasks were completed at the pace of a turtle, and I did just enough to meet the standards of my mother. On the other hand, when it came to celebrating my mother’s birthday, I put 110% into the project.

The difference in my behaviour was dependent on my motivation. One task was done out of fear, the other out of a desire to see someone I cared about happy. As a leader, there is no greater motivation for me than to see my team accomplishing great things. If I find myself just going through the motions and just doing enough to get the task done, then it may be time for me to rethink what matters. Why did I choose this career path in the first place? What did I love about it, to begin with? One method to help motivate a leader to properly interact with his/her team is practising empathy, which will improve the emotional quotient.


The ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people

It’s a rare thing for an employee to feel the sincerity of management when it comes to their emotional needs. An empathetic leader has the wisdom to acknowledge it is inconvenient for their employees when they ask them to work late.  Similarly when employees ask for unexpected time off. Not only will an attentive leader acknowledge the inconvenience, but find a way to reward an employee in some way to show their appreciation. If this phenomenon does occur, signs of respect and loyalty are given in abundance on behalf of the employee. Once this bond is established, the leader’s coaching, correction, and feedback are welcomed with open arms. The team’s development skyrockets and goals are conquered constantly.

Empathy displayed by management towards the team fosters an atmosphere of inclusion. The team takes ownership of each project when they feel included.  This opens the door for the leader to also develop the social skills needed to manage relationships and build networks.

Social skills

Proficiency in managing relationships and building networks.
No one is wise enough to make all the decisions. We must recognize that others possess incite on particular topics. Therefore we must make a constant effort to reach out and seek relationships to establish a network. A leader should be comfortable with making decisions together with their team and collaborators. A group of people coming together and making decisions may be a stressful situation that causes someone to let their temper get out of control.

No matter what problems a leader is facing, they must never allow emotions to rule their critical thinking process. Someone who has mastered the art of social skills has the complete trust of their staff. They listen to their team. Such a leader is easy to talk to. As a leader, they always make careful, informed decisions. These are people that attract others to them like a magnet. Others are willing to work with them constantly and get a really good feeling about the project they are working on.

Final Thoughts

The primary responsibility of a leader is to detect areas of opportunity for improvement. It requires strength and courage to look for that in ourselves first. There is no such thing as a perfect leader. Coworkers are not looking for perfect leaders; the team is in search of perfect motives. Leaders, who fail to understand this, will experience constant failures. There are many hurtful things a leader has to contend with, as they continue to master the emotional quotient. All that hard work will someday pay off. One of the rewards of leadership is seeing your team develop and overcome adversity that would normally stop them in their tracks.