Leaders’ Emotions Are Contagious (Hint: Do Not Go to Cabo San Lucas)

Cabo San Lucas beachSupreme Court Justice Earl Warren always read the sports section of the newspaper first. Sports, he believed, were about human accomplishment while the front page underscored human dysfunction. I agree and follow that order of newspaper reading with sports first.

Thus, I was intrigued by the recent Dallas Morning News article in which Kevin Sherrington posed the question of whether we should be worried about Dak Prescott’s focus during the Cowboys bye week. We shouldn’t be, Sherrington writes. Of course, we can’t think about a Cowboys’ bye week before a playoff game without traveling back to 2007 when Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson spent a long weekend in Cabo San Lucas. Romo returned from Cabo to play an average game against the NY Giants in the divisional round. The Cowboys lost 21-17.

Kevin Sherrington mused: “Could the Cowboys have won more if it had looked like Romo worked harder at it, at least early in his career when the prospects were better? I don’t know. I don’t even know if it’s a fair question. What I do know is that teammates are influenced by the work ethic of their quarterbacks.” (You can read the whole Sherrington article here: http://sportsday.dallasnews.com/dallacowboys/cowboys/2017/01/05/worried-rookie-dak-prescott-losing-focus-cowboys-bye-week)

This discussion of leadership clicked for me because deep into prep for the advanced coaching class I’m teaching at S.M.U., I made the connection between football and what I had just been reading. Daniel Goleman, in Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence writes that the leader’s emotional intelligence is the key for success in any organization.

Could it be that athleticism and technical skill aside, Prescott has more emotional intelligence at 23 than Romo did at 29? Does his higher EQ simply make him a better leader?

Elena Aguilar argues that for leaders “to build an effective team, you need to know yourself. There is no other place to start.” (The Art of Coaching School Teams)

What are the implications for leaders?

As the leader, you set the emotional standard.                                                                            Team members watch the leader more than anyone else, give more credence to what s/he says and tend to see the leader’s emotional reaction as the most valid one.

Leaders need to help a team build emotional intelligence.                                                      This is a key part of the leader’s job, as much as developing team members’ capacity for analyzing data and providing effective feedback. Leaders can do a lot to build their team’s EQ.

As leaders, some questions for reflection are:

  • How aware are you of your emotions as you lead?
  • How aware are you of the impact your EQ has on others?
  • What are your strategies for managing your emotions? For developing your emotional intelligence?
  • What are you doing to explicitly develop emotional intelligence in members of your team and organization?

Why does any of this matter?

We have an adaptive challenge in education— ensuring that education works for all students—and that challenge demands an adaptive response, one that requires new learning. Part of this new learning must be about self and one’s emotional intelligence. It’s a leadership essential.

To learn more about adaptive leadership and emotional intelligence, I invite you to be in touch with me at JLParvin12@gmail.com.