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In Your Leadership Toolkit: Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is now considered a critical factor in professional and individual success. Companies have pinpointed it as a critical characteristic of the best in leadership.

Psychologists agree that to achieve success, intelligence quotient (IQ) accounts for 10%; the rest is emotional intelligence (Bisaria 2011, p.17).

EQ can be defined as the emotion management of self and others (Cross 2003).

Emotional intelligence is a term that carries many misconceptions.

It has been incorrectly misconstrued to be a trait of those who are deemed overly sensitive and “touchy-feely.”

In reality, it’s a sophisticated description of an aptitude that relies on tremendous emotional restraint and control, highly attuned awareness and exceptional observation and interpretation skills.

Emotional intelligence involves competencies both personally and socially as well as development in self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management (Bradberry and Greaves 2009).

These competencies and skills, when mature, are a potent combination that allows individuals to navigate effectively in most facets of life, including one’s profession.

In the business of emergency services, emotional restraint is paramount. A loss of emotional control equates to poor judgment, impulsive behavior and a litany of regrettable decisions.

It’s necessary for clear and concise command on the fireground, to inspire employee motivation and to eloquently address conflict resolution.

EQ is with obvious—and researched—leadership benefit and a characteristic that should be considered necessary.

The challenge is how to change the hearts and minds of a culture.

The fire service, like many professions steeped in tradition, has failed at times to acknowledge a new approach.

Focusing on sound incident-command presence and how to be a strong fire ground tactician is what dominates training and education in many organizations for the future leaders in the fire service.

There is no doubt that complete leaders in the fire service must have a tight grasp on the IC system, demonstrate smart tactics and properly employ the right strategies.

They must stay current on these important dexterities, but these skills can only assist in a fraction of the tricky situations company officers and chief officers find themselves in.

However, the bulk of leaders’ time is spent on workforce issues. Issues requiring the ability to inspire a team.

These issues require the ability to focus on the importance of persuasion, maintain the delicate balance of conflict resolution and deal with myriad other personnel struggles that have mystified leaders for generations.

These are the real problems that overshadow the managerial landscape.

Tackling these personnel challenges with agility is proven in those with a greater comprehension and mastery of emotional intelligence.

It’s a proficiency that can be formed and strengthened with practice, but without education and training on the concept, there’s little chance for improvement.

With so much available support and research on a trait that accompanies leadership success in the workplace, the question is not why the fire service should begin to teach this topic, but why hasn’t it already? 


Bisaria, A., CMA. (2011). “Intelligence and leadership: Climbing the corporate ladder.” CMA Magazine, 85(2), 17-18.

Boyatzis, Richard, Goleman, Daniel, & McKee, Annie (2002) Primal Leadership, Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence.

Bradberry, Travis, & Greaves, Jean (2009) Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

Cross, B., & Travaglione, A. (2003). “The Untold Story: Is the Entrepreneur of the 21st Century Defined by Emotional Intelligence?” International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 11(3), 221-228. 

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