The EQ Decision Making Domain and Leadership


Do a Google search on the term “leadership” and you get over 101 million results. Leadership is subjective – you can’t build an assessment that pinpoints who will be a great leader in a particular situation. You can, however, create a mosaic of sorts around characteristics, traits, skills, and past experiences that are important to your organization. And from that mosaic seek out candidates that align with the organizational culture, growth phase of the company, management climate, and a host of other criteria.

Technical and functional skills will clearly be part of the mosaic. Hard research is now showing that emotional intelligence plays a role in the success or failure of a leader. Many models exist and each model has its pros and cons. What is becoming clear is that a few models, supported by substantial peer reviewed data, form the basis for much of what we know regarding emotional intelligence. MHS has conducted significant research around the Reuven Bar-On model – 5 domains and 15 subscales – and how it has direct application to leadership development.

Decision Making

Making decisions and influencing the actions of others is a core leadership competency. We want to believe that our decisions are made through a logical sequence of stating the problem clearly, gathering data to help analyze the problem, and making the best decision possible based on the facts presented. That’s just not the case. Emotions invariably come into play. Success in this area means that you can effectively grasp the problem (especially the emotional components), devise solutions (on your own or in consultation with others), then manage through the impulses that may have a negative effect on decision making.

Impulse Control

Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy. ~ Aristotle

Who or what pushes your buttons and why? Answer this question and you well down the path to developing a solution to resist or delay your impulse to act. We don’t always impulsively act out of anger. We might impulsively buy something, make a bad investment decision, and, yes, lash out at somebody – even somebody that we love and respect. Legendary neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux uses the term amygdala hijack to describe a hyper-overreaction to a stimulus such as a threat. Once our rational brain becomes engaged we realize that a more tempered approach would have been more effective.

This topic strikes very close to home for me. It was in my work with and study of emotional intelligence that I am beginning to fully understand the mechanics involved. As an engineer, I very much like the technical details. The hard work comes in implementing the solutions. Like all things in life, it is a journey – and one that I am committed to taking.

Reality Testing

Only a real risk tests the reality of belief. ~ C. S. Lewis

How would you rate your ability to critically assess the correspondence between what you experience and what objectively exists? This is reality testing. Being able to “tune in”, if you will, to the current situation in all of its complexities – to see things as they are not as you want them to be.

We all have cognitive biases. Our past experiences, our education, the culture, failures and successes – all support or hinder our ability for pragmatism, objectivity, our thoughts, and our actions.

Reflect on instances that required you to evaluate an important decision or situation where you had a stake in the outcome (a new hire, a response to a spouse, an difference of opinion with a colleague, or your interpretation of an event). What questions can you ask, in hindsight, that may alter the way in which you originally viewed the situation as it unfolded? How can you strengthen this process so that you might be less negative (or too positive) and more curious.

Problem Solving

We like to think that solving problems involves a straight forward analysis of the issues and making decision based on the facts at hand. Emotions play a significant role in not only making our decision but in the influence required in implementing the decision. Marvin Levine, in Effective Problem Solving, outlined three steps to use:

  • Externalization
  • Visualization
  • Simplification

Externalization: put all of the data and information in front of you. I often use OneNote (other might use EverNote) as a tool to gather and assemble information. Graphs, charts, text, audio, and video files form a mosaic that then allows our unconscious mind to assemble the parts and help to formulate a plan.

Visualization: imagine going through all of the steps to identify the problem, discuss the problem, and solve the problem. Ask insightful questions. Challenge assumptions. Feel the mood of the group with respect to various considered actions.

Simplification: break the problem and the potential solution into its component parts and focus on those most relevant.

Reflect on a problem where the solution resulted in either a positive or negative outcome. What led you, or the team, into the chosen solution? How did you anticipate support or obstacles surrounding that decision?

Here is a look at low and high values of Decision Making. Stay tuned as we continue to look at each of the five areas of the Reuven Bar-On model of Emotional Intelligence. Each blog post will provide you with exercises aimed to help you reflect on and increase your awareness in each area.


The EQ Edge

Primal Leadership