The Emotional Roller Coaster

If a year could be captured by an image, 2008 would be a roller coaster.

Political, social or financial, it was a year of emotion. With stories of fear leading in the news, managing reaction and creating hope in 2009 will be the greatest challenge. Emotion, reaction and risk go hand-in-hand. If leadership is defined by a willingness to take risks, then 2009 is the year of opportunity.

The good news is, as we get older we also get wiser, and we learn that we can balance emotion and reason to manage risk. Our Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is what assists us here. Not to be confused with our IQ or cognitive intelligence, which is pretty much set by age 17, emotional intelligence is something we can bank on improving as we get older. Ron Short succinctly defines emotional intelligence as “The ability to be aware of our emotions and manage them effectively” and “The ability to relate with others in effective ways.”1

While IQ may be a necessary foundation for being able to develop and interpret your EQ, emotional intelligence isn’t a skill gained through reading. It is developed through experiencing the actions, the emotions and the decisions. Emotional intelligence is about developing the “short-term, tactical, “dynamic” skills that can be brought into play as the situation warrants.” 2

Our greatest gains in developing our emotional intelligence happen when we step outside our comfort zone. As some of you have experienced risk and emotion are inextricably linked when it comes to working with horses, that is also what makes them perfect for leadership awareness learning.

Time and again I am experiencing that with Rhys. I have previously written of a tumble off of Rhys, well the whole story is a concussion and cracked vertebrae. So yes, I see a bit more risk in riding him. That is where my problems lie, you see as my mirror he is also reflecting my emotions. If fear surfaces, I no longer can be effective in communicating with him.

I’ve seen similar debilitating emotions show up through the simple act of meeting a horse, deciding to make that next career move or having that uncomfortable conversation. What I recognize is that something that sounds simple is not necessarily easy when the action is outside of your typical comfort zone. Learning to recognize the emotions that show up for you and how you want to reflect them based on knowledge and skill you already possess will help determine what actions define your next step.

Regardless of what 2009 has in store for each of us we can only manage how we respond and react to the opportunities presented. Leadership is about managing the emotional roller coaster we find ourselves on – whether it is a ride we choose or one that shows up.

1. R. Short, Learning in Relationships
2. S.J, Stein, H.E.Book, The EQ Edge

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