Emotional Intelligence for Leaders (and Pilots)

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The Emotional Intelligence of Leaders continues to come under increasing scrutiny in many sectors.  Politicians are facing mounting pressure to be transparent, corporate bosses are being challenged by investors and customers to be more open about their policies and decisions, and now, even aircraft pilots are being placed in the very bright spotlight when something goes wrong too.

Case in point – this American Air Force plane landed at the completely wrong airstrip.  How?  Didn’t the highly qualified pilots know what they were doing?  Probably yes.  Didn’t these highly skilled professionals spot they were off course and about to miss their intended destination?  Apparently not!

Whatever did go wrong may never be shared publicly, but how it went wrong could be a mixture of poor communication between the pilots and their air traffic control colleagues (team), and generalising that ‘That airstrip right in front of us MUST be the one were landing at.” kind of thinking.  Flawed thinking of course.  A similar incident happened a few years ago with a Ryanair passenger flight which was intended to land in Dublin, Ireland.  And it did land in Dublin, Ireland, a few miles away from the international airport..at a former air force landing strip which had been decommissioned many years previous.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

One can only imagine the feelings of absolute terror the pilots felt on each occasion.  Being ‘close’ is not close enough in such situations.  Decision Making, Impulse Control and many more Emotional Intelligence competencies come in to play here.  But not paying full attention to information, being somewhat ambivalent in decision making, and an unhealthy reliance on generalised information and data is what can cause such a problem.  And day to day leadership in the organisation setting isn’t too different either.  OK, in most cases you won’t make the international news, but in what situations as a leader might you be relying on well-intentioned but unvalidated information and data to make your decisions?  Where do you believe you see a situation ‘As it is’, but delete or completely ignore important signals and information which is metaphorically staring you right in the face?

You will no doubt occasionally make a decision which turns out to not to be the best decision after all.  But, be aware that people are watching you in not just the decisions you make, but how you handle the situation when things don’t go to plan.


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