Smart leaders have emotional intelligence

As you explore current and future opportunities and challenges, a significant key to your success will be your capacity for self-awareness and your ability to connect with others. “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” This wisdom resonates with all of us and has been the subject of research at Harvard University.

Tracking hundreds of graduates from business, law and medicine over the course of 30 years, scientists have determined that emotional intelligence (EI) is twice as significant as IQ and technical skills combined as a predictor of success.

What is emotional intelligence? EI describes the ability to perceive, assess and manage one’s own emotions, and it is the capacity to create effective relationships with others.

Rarely do projects fail because people don’t have the technical skills or intelligence to succeed. More often than not, projects fail because the dynamics in the relationships create unnecessary roadblocks.

  • How often have you been in the middle of a difficult conversation and you froze, unable to respond?
  • When was the last time that you said things that you later regretted?
  • How many times have you gone into a meeting with the intention of saying no and left having said yes to yet one more project?

Based on studies of the human brain, we now know that in these circumstances, you have experienced an emotional hijack. Your brain shuts down, and you literally can’t think. The good news is we can learn skills to manage emotional hijacks. We have the ability to strengthen our emotional intelligence and increase our capacity to effectively connect with others.

Lifelong learning is more than acquiring information. Lifelong learning is also a journey into greater self-awareness and emotional connection with others.

“The real voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

— Marcel Proust

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Karen Vernal is executive vice president and chief dreamer for Vernal, LLC (, a Milwaukee based leadership and human resource firm, dedicated to “igniting the spirit and skills of leaders.” As an executive coach/consultant, she was recognized by the Green Bay Packers for her guidance in their organizational planning process. She was also the recipient of the 2011 Marquette University Leadership Excellence Award.

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