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How to Leverage Emotional Intelligence into Limbic Leadership

The best leaders incorporate emotional intelligence skills. An emotionally intelligent manager— what could be called a master of limbic leadership — can handle almost any situation. Whether you want to know how to manage relationships in the workplace, how to empathize with employees, or how to use emotion to guide your decisions, limbic leadership can guide you through some of the hardest business situations you’ll ever encounter.

Your limbic system houses your amygdala, the almond-shaped primitive emotional structure that can run your life and your organization. Whether you will be the master of your limbic brain or its slave is the first decision you need to make as a leader.

Should you become the slave of the limbic system and the emotions it generates, you may see one of two scenarios. Limbic denial occurs when you ignore your own and others’ emotions, and limbic overflow comes about when you can’t ignore or control any of your own emotions.

Should you choose to master the competencies of leadership — that is, build your emotional intelligence — your situation changes dramatically. This is called limbic leadership because it draws on the emotional skills of self-confidence, emotional self-management, empathy, and feedback.

You likely create an environment where employees feel safe to share their feelings. When you master your emotions, you see patterns similar to these:

Master of self-awareness

  • Your decisions are based on emotional and cognitive information.

  • You excuse yourself from meetings when your emotional state is not helpful to the situation.

  • You are aware of emotional contagion and shield yourself from negativity.

  • You work your own feelings into planning and responding to others. Individuals with whom you interact know that you’re a feeling, caring person.

  • You “roll with the punches” when it comes to changes within your organization and between your organization and others. You control and use your feelings so you are flexible.

Master of handling others

  • You consider the emotional needs of employees, clients, and customers.

  • When emotions are strong, you offer your staff the opportunity to reflect and to vent in order for them and you to come to terms with their feelings.

  • You use emotional contagion when you are feeling positive, passionate, and excited about work-related issues. You “spread the news.”

  • You consider other’s feelings when making decisions and work your understanding of those feelings into your responses.

  • You work with others to adjust to change. You help others understand their feelings and encourage them toward change and flexibility.

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