>The Centre for Creative Leadership are renowned experts in the research around leaders and how they get ‘derailed’. According to their research, a key factor behind executive derailment is deficit in the area of emotional intelligence. This presents a unique challenge because quite a lot of what we bring to the workplace in the way of our emotional intelligence is pretty much ‘hard-wired’ into our brain by the time we enter the workforce. This hard-wiring dictates how we respond to others in our world: are they friend or foe?
Our limbic system, where our emotional fuse box sits, acts irrationally, much like a house alarm. If you forget to disarm your house alarm when you get home, it will go off; it doesn’t recognise you, it has only received a signal that there is danger. Similarly, when we get to a position of managing or leading people, we often have hard-wired responses to them that are beyond our intellectual control. That’s the evolutionary point of the limbic system though. We have been hard-wired to react to potentially dangerous people or situations through our early life experiences. So if you grew up in a household where arguments led to someone getting hurt, you are likely to experience a little anxiety or tension as an adult when conflicts arise at work. You want it to stop, you know intellectually that you won’t actually get hurt, but you can’t help your palms getting sweaty or your heart beating more quickly…..yes, that’s why we often find ourselves taking up roles in our workplaces that mirror the roles we took up in our families of origin.
In order for us to ‘re-wire’ our emotional responses, it can be incredibly beneficial to participate in ‘state-dependent’ learning processes: those which, in a titrated and contained manner, recreate the situations to which we wish to have new emotional reponses, so that new neural connections can be made. We also require the opportunity to integrate these new experiences into our consciousness, so that we can have greater freedom to respond, and not simply react from a default setting.