Tuesday Morning Focal Point

Emotional Reactors and Leadership

Do you find yourself reacting at all these days, perhaps in ways that are unusual or are just more emotionally loaded than you are accustomed to?  If you do, you’re not alone.  More and more I seem to be having conversations with people about their emotional responses and reactions that they are not proud of. 

In part one of this series on emotional intelligence, we talked about core emotional agilities.  In part two, we introduced emotional qualities.  This time we talk about emotional reactors.  “What?” you say…” I am not reactionary…but I sure know people who are!”  Just wait, every one of us has reactors.  They serve us in several ways.

This is the third article in a three part series on Emotional Intelligence – read the others here: Emotional Agility and Leadership; Emotional Qualities and Leadership

Just like there are eight emotional qualities, which we sometimes refer to as emotional sparks, there are eight emotional reactors.  Again, these can be in paradox and can pull in tension against each other.  Let’s start by listing and briefly defining these reactors.  Expect one or more to resonate with you as you review them.

The Eight Emotional Reactors

Optimistic – Can easily see the positive side of this.  Conveys an open and enthusiastic attitude.

Vigilant – Naturally inclined to worry and feel concern.  Considers what can go wrong and minimizes risks.

Confident – Possesses internal self-belief.  Outwardly confident and self-assured.

Modest – Hard on oneself and self-deprecating.  Humble and unassuming.

Even-tempered – Calm and steady by nature.  Good-natured and serene. 

Impassioned – Feels things intensely.  Passionate and animated.

Resilient – Feels capable of handling pressure and stress.  Appears calm and unruffled under pressure.

Responsive – Frustrated by disruptions and setbacks.  Acts with urgency under pressure. 

Risk and Reward

One way of looking at these eight is by recognizing that four of them are “reward reactors” while the other four are “risk reactors.”  Can you guess which ones are which?  Do you tend to be reward or risk focused in terms of your emotional reactions?  Our scores in these various reactors help us better understand things like:

At the most basic level the emotional reactors reflect the degree to which we perceive threat in our environment and the emotions, thoughts and behaviours we exhibit when we feel under threat. 

Implications of where you fall on risk vs reward reactors

Leaders high on the reward reactor side of things generally experience more stable moods, tend to be more optimistic and less sensitive to stressors.  They appear to be “easy going.”  While they do experience less negative emotion, it does not necessarily mean that they do experience more positive emotion. 

Those higher on the risk reactor side of things experience more frequent and intense less desirable emotions such as fear, worry, self-doubt and frustration.  Moreover, these individuals are prone to interpreting ambiguous stimuli as threatening. 

Impacts on your leadership

So what are the implications for leadership?  Well, they are endless.  Our overall emotional intelligence and all of the various elements that form such intelligence interacts with all kinds of situations we find ourselves in.  Whether it is our own emotional response to being turned down for a new deal, or the way we react when a senior leader comes to present an idea for our future strategy, our emotions are constant.  However, so few leaders are really in tune with their true emotional intelligence.  Our culture is one that tends not to value emotion in the way we should value it.  Your EQ affects everything! 

Cameron’s Call to Action for Emotional Reactors

  1. Do a quick self-reflection on what you think your primary emotional reactors are.  Do you think your emotional reactors are more risk or more reward based?
  2. Check in with a few close team members regarding how you are perceived and experienced by others.  Sometimes others see things in you that you don’t see.  Be open to learning from what others share with you.
  3. Take our Emotional Intelligence questionnaire and let us produce the most comprehensive emotional intelligence portrait you’ll ever get your hands on.  You’ll understand exactly who you are in terms of your emotional qualities, your emotional reactors and agilities.  Moreover, we’ll measure these for you in different persona’s of you!  A rich and detailed tool to work from.

Cameron is an Executive Coach and Consultant specializing in business growth and creating psychologically healthy workplaces.