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11 June 2024

In conversation with Professor Marcello Mortillaro, teaching “Leading and communicating effectively”

Please introduce the concept of self-leadership and how it can help advance a career
Self-leadership involves understanding your strengths and weaknesses, setting personal goals, and motivating yourself to achieve them. This concept is crucial in one’s career as it fosters independence, resilience, and a proactive attitude. The module starts by asking participants to reflect on two past experiences with leaders: one where they felt empowered and another where they felt hindered. This exercise helps them identify the type of leader they aspire to be and recognize the impact they can have on others.

What role does emotional intelligence (EI) play in leadership and team dynamics?
Emotional intelligence is critical in leadership as it involves understanding and managing your own emotions, as well as those of others. A leader with high EI can navigate complex social situations, build strong relationships, and foster a positive work environment. EI helps leaders to be flexible and adapt their behaviour to different situations, ensuring they can motivate and engage their team effectively. Many participants find the content gives them a new perspective, as it challenges their preconceptions and introduces new ways of thinking about leadership and emotional intelligence.

How does the course incorporate practical strategies for managing emotions and conflicts?
We cover specific strategies for emotional regulation, such as cognitive reappraisal and focusing techniques. Participants learn to delay immediate reactions, giving themselves time to choose the most appropriate response. For managing conflicts, we discuss strategies like accommodating, compromising, and collaborating, linking each strategy to specific behaviours. This practical approach helps participants understand how to apply these strategies in real-world situations.

Is the course content and the EI tool developed at the University of Geneva unique?
Yes, the EI tool we developed is unique to the University of Geneva. While the model of emotional intelligence is not entirely original, our adaptation and the specific test we created are unique. This tool is designed specifically for the workplace, focusing on abilities linked to cognitive skills rather than personality traits. As far as we know, it’s one of the few workplace ability tests available that is based on a scientifically validated model of emotional intelligence.

You say that “emotions help us make better decisions in the workplace” – please elaborate!
Emotions are a crucial source of information. They can help us better understand what is happening around us and guide our decision-making process. For instance, feeling anger at work might indicate that a boundary has been crossed or that something important is being overlooked. Instead of pretending that emotions like anger are not there, it’s more productive to understand why they are there and what they signify. This approach allows us to address underlying issues effectively and use emotions to make informed and rational decisions.

How do you see the conversation around emotions in the workplace evolving?
There is a growing awareness and acceptance of the importance of emotions in the workplace. However, it’s crucial to clarify that emotional intelligence is not just about being nice. It’s about being aware of emotions and using them constructively. Sometimes this means being confrontational or addressing uncomfortable issues directly. The goal is to use emotions intelligently to achieve our goals and support those around us.

What are some misconceptions about emotional intelligence and its application?
Emotional intelligence involves understanding and managing emotions in a way that is appropriate for the situation. It’s not about suppressing emotions but rather using them as valuable information. Another misconception is that emotional intelligence cannot be learned. There is enough evidence from different domains and age groups to affirm that EI can be successfully trained. With the right motivation and the appropriate path, everyone can improve how the recognize and manage emotions, benefitting themselves and others.

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