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Emotional Intelligence
Build Your Emotional Intelligence to Become an Embodied Leader
Adrienne Partridge image

Adrienne Partridge, MEd ’09, PhD

One of HNU’s core values is promotion of the full development of the human person. One way to do that is to cultivate Embodied Leaders. 

Embodied Leadership is based on the proven theory that the mind and body are inextricably linked. Both need to be nurtured for us to function at our best. We live in a world that predominantly focuses above the neck. We barely recognize that we live in bodies with nervous systems and physiology that support our vitality and allow us to smoothly navigate the academic and business worlds. As we live through this especially unsettling time of a pandemic, accessing our full humanity is more important than ever. 

The most common stress responses I see that block leaders from fully stepping into their potential include perfectionism and people-pleasing. These are not mindsets; they are actually hyper-arousal stress responses of the nervous system. 

First, the nervous system responds to a trigger such as fear of not being liked or making a mistake. Then the mind kicks in with plans for people-pleasing or perfectionist behavior. Historically, women have had to people-please for survival. This is often especially true for BIPOC women and others from marginalized or oppressed groups. Such responses are frequently passed down through the generations.

One method to heal from these types of nervous system responses and build Embodied Leadership is to increase your capacity to be emotionally intelligent. Research indicates that it’s EQ, not IQ, that predicts leadership success. 

The 5 components of Emotional Intelligence coined by Daniel Goleman are: Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Internal Motivation, Empathy, and Social Skills. My approach adds the engagement of the body and nervous system, in what I call Embodied Emotional Intelligence. These are 5 ways to increase your Embodied EQ:

1. Self-Awareness. When emotionally triggered, you can identify where you sense the specific trigger’s activation, such as your chest, throat, or stomach. Knowing how your body signals your triggers is the most powerful way to increase your self-awareness.

2. Self-Regulation. You can thoughtfully respond – versus immediately react – because you can regulate your nervous system through methods such as movement and attuning your body to the immediate environment.

3. Internal Motivation. You engage your higher purpose as it relates to your career pursuits – beyond status or compensation. By trusting the wisdom of your body you attune to sensations that reveal your self-actualization needs.

4. Empathy. You genuinely seek to understand how other people feel, while also maintaining your emotional boundaries. If you have absorbed too much of another person’s feelings, you use body-based strategies to release any residual energy.

5. Social Skills. You can interact appropriately, given the audience or social context. When you interact with others, you embody presence because you are grounded from within your body and are not just interacting from your thinking mind.

I have found that the most confident, skilled, and empathetic leaders, who continue to advance in their careers, while making a big impact, rely on their Embodied EQ skills more than their cognitive abilities. They build successful relationships, communicate with clarity, develop and coach their teams, resolve conflict, and solve difficult problems. 

I believe that with more Embodied Leaders in the world, there will be a greater number of compassionate organizations making an even bigger impact on the greater good.