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Perrin Carey

1 December 2020 at 10:00:00

The emotional intelligence of the leaders within our organisations has a significant influence over the ethical culture that exists. If we can work hard on improving our own emotional literacy, we will support better governance within our organisations, our communities and within our own lives.

Emotional intelligence is an increasingly important concept and attribute that people need to exhibit. It’s also a critical aspect of governance.

Dr Marc Brackett is the Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the creator of RULER, an emotional response framework.

He notes that

Our emotions need to be as educated, as our intellect.

He adds,

It is important to know how to feel, how to respond, and how to let life in so that it can touch you.

Our emotional abilities and the way we comprehend our emotional behaviour matters because when our emotional abilities aren’t given permission in and if we don’t have self-awareness, we are not able to manage our distressing emotions well.

Feelings are different from emotions; emotions are more granular.
So, in the morning when we wake up, we might not feel pleasant, or we might have feelings of wanting to avoid something, or have lots of energy or feel sleepy.

Emotions are the elements that feed through to give us these feelings.
Anger is about perceived injustice.
Disappointment is about unmet expectations.
Anxiety is about uncertainty.
Fear is impending danger.
Shame is about a perception of self.
Envy is about wanting what others have.

According to Brené Brown and her research into leadership, vulnerability and shame, notes that,

Most people can only recognise the three emotions of Mad, Sad and Glad trilogy. Whilst some coaches and programmes advocate the use of this trilogy, we can miss significant emotional cues, both our own and those of others, if we limit ourselves.

Emotional intelligence or emotional literacy is one of the important aspects of well-being in every human, whether it’s in our professional or personal lives, governance or self-governance needs to be humanised. What we often overlook is how influential are emotions and our emotional intelligence are over our behaviours.

According to Dr Brackett, understanding our emotions and learning to regulate them is critical for various aspects of our lives, both personal and professional.

Attentional capacity is decreased...
If you’re feeling nervous, anxious, unsafe or feeling fear.

Decision making suffers...
If you have feelings of low mood, anger or frustration.

Relationships are affected by...
Feelings of needing to either Approach or Avoid.

Physical and mental health is impacted...
With high levels of cortisol from anxiety and fear resulting in chronic health conditions.

Performance and creativity is almost non-existent...
If workplace environments cultivate a fear of failure and low levels of psychological safety.

60% of people cannot control their emotional present.

In a survey of 15,000 people across the work-force in the US, 50-60% reported negative feelings and emotions, however the critical factor was the emotional intelligence of their manager or leader. Those with leaders who had high levels of emotional awareness recorded much higher senses of belonging and safety despite their own emotions.

What was also recorded was that the ethical behaviours within an organisation were directly related to the emotional intelligence of the leaders.

This connection between emotional intelligence and ethical behaviour is critical and shouldn’t be overlooked, whether it be disputes, poor communication and feedback, lack of esprit de corps, lack of awareness and of poor adherence to values and purpose, all of these influence the quality of governance within our organisations.

We all know there’s different problems which we encounter in an organisation or as we traverse our corporate journey, when in some way we don’t recognise or understand our emotions. We rarely look at what’s going on inside of us, most of the time we would rather reply in fixed phrases like: “I am fine” or “good”, “Everything is going well”.

We rarely expect or desire or provide an honest answer.

Dr Marc Brackett and his team at Yale have developed RULER.

Recognise yours and other’s feelings and emotions
Understand both the description and the origins of these feelings and emotions
Label the emotions, being as precise as you can and looking for what he calls metaemotions - emotions resulting from emotions.
Express these emotions allowing them to be present without allowing them to overwhelm you.
Regulate how we handle our feelings, looking at the strategies we can use to help us in this process.

Following this simple process can significantly improve how we manage our own emotions and improve our ethical behaviours and decision-making.

Emotional intelligence is one of the main components which influences our decision-making, and our emotional patterns can also have an impact on our sleep cycles, body mass index and overall health. Knowingly or unknowingly our whole emotional system is connected with our physical and mental health. Whether we are disappointed, or experiencing anxiety, or we face fear, envy, jealousy or we simply don’t feel pleasant, want to avoid awkward conversations, it all becomes easier, if we truly understand and look inside ourselves to understand more fully what we’re feeling and to express it fearlessly.

A true leader is someone who has the courage to deal with problematic behaviours, to face their own fears and feelings and allows and affords their employees the support and space to express what they’re feeling and to talk about it. By doing so, we are being preventionist not interventionist.

As leaders, we need to hear our people and allow them, without any judgements or comments being passed, to experience their feelings and emotions.

This work is hard, but the evidence is clear, it supports better decision-making, reduces unethical behaviours and therefore improves governance.

It’s been said, people high in emotional intelligence will build real social fabric within an organisation, and between an organisation and those it serves - its community, whereas those low in emotional intelligence may tend to create problems for the organisation through their individual behaviours.

Good governance is centric around having a positive culture. This culture should emerge from the purpose of the organisation, its people, its values and the behaviours associated with those values and purpose.

Emotional intelligence is inextricably connected to the exhibition of these behaviours and the evidence is clear...

Courageous leaders adhere to fears and feelings and this supports a culture of openness, honesty and ethical decision-making.
This blog was written with the support and insight of one of our contributors. Thank you, Divya. As an MBA student specifically interested in marketing, she is a contributor to the CoSteer blog. If you would like to contribute to moving governance forwards towards a more ethical and human centric framework, please contact us at

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