In 1998 the Harvard Business Review published an article by Daniel Goleman entitled “What Makes a Leader?” about applying the concept of “emotional intelligence” within the context of leadership, a term created by Goleman in a book he published by the same name. According to Goleman emotional intelligence “refers to the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others.” Thus, according to the article, when emotional intelligence – the awareness of one’s own feelings and those of others – is consciously applied in leadership situations it can be a highly effective tool in guiding one’s decisions and actions.
Recently I heard a man speak about his experiences as an undercover police officer for the Los Angeles Police Department where he served for twenty years. As he explained, awareness of one’s surroundings is critical for a cop, and not only observing what physically exists around you but also analyzing the potential of what might occur. A group of children playing soccer in a park, for example, creates the potential of the ball rolling into the street and the danger of a child chasing after it. Now in a high level leadership position – unrelated to law enforcement – he considers this keen sense of awareness he developed through his experience and training as a cop as being crucial in his effectiveness as a corporate leader by making him more aware of others’ feelings as well as his own.
I don’t know about you, but the extent of my own exposure to undercover police work is limited to the shows I’ve watched on television. Yet, anyone who has experienced raising children knows what it means to be a cop. And not all of us become high level corporate executives, political or organizational leaders, but at the very least we all serve in leadership capacities within our families and at times in our neighborhoods and communities. If we think about it, seldom are our decisions and actions in these rolls guided strictly by some technical expertise we may possess – almost never in fact in parenting. Rather it is our capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others; it is the application of our emotional intelligence that guides our decisions and actions. Awareness is critical for a cop, as the man explained. Indeed it is critical in all we do.