Emotional Intelligence: The Leadership Difference-Maker


A true story:

In March 2013 Susanna Rohm’s seemingly-healthy two month old baby had stopped breathing causing mom to go into a panic. She began screaming for help as loudly as possible.

In the panic Susanna had lost her cell phone and had the presence of mind to go get help rather than search for the phone. She ran outside and saw two boys playing across the street. Susanna yelled to them for help and screamed for them to call 911.

Ethan Wilson, age 11, and Rocky Hurt, age 9, immediately placed the emergency call but Rocky ran across the street to see what else he could do to help.

Noticing that Susanna was not administering CPR correctly, he coached the panicking mom to give proper chest compressions and breaths to her distressed baby.

Rocky later told a reporter, “I told her to push on the baby’s chest five to 10 times with only two fingers, tilt back the baby’s head, plug the baby’s nose and breathe into the baby’s mouth.”

Suddenly, the baby began crying at which point Rocky told Susanna, “That’s a good sign because it means the baby is breathing.”

Paramedics soon arrived and transported the baby to the hospital for further treatment but Rocky certainly saved the day. Rocky and Ethan said they had learned CPR from a restaurant poster.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence is the ability and presence of mind to make rational decisions and to take action that may be directly opposed to the inner emotional stimulus. More broadly is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups.

Emotional Intelligence may be explained best using stories in which it may be illustrated. The story about Rocky helping to save a baby illustrates a great human interest story but also Emotional Intelligence, also known as EQ or EI.

Rocky clearly did not panic as might be expected of a nine-year old boy. He maintained control of his own emotions, recalled memory of a poster describing CPR of an infant, and through his composure he calmed the emotions of Susanne so that she could follow the instructions and resuscitate her baby.

This is not to suggest that Susanne has a low EQ but rather that Rocky certainly is a good illustration of high emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability and presence of mind to make rational decisions and to take action that may be directly opposed to the inner emotional stimulus.

Emotional Intelligence is Leadership Intelligence

Rocky Hurt appears to have natural Emotional Intelligence at an early age, with limited education, maturity, or training. His presence of mind and control of not only his own emotions but also those of Susanne is compelling. Historically this is an ability of the best leaders.

  • Bvt. Maj. Gen. Joshua Chamberlain serving as a regiment commander in the battle of Gettysburg overcame the overwhelming sense of defeat by his soldiers on the second day of the battle. He ordered a bayonet charge of Confederate forces and took over 100 prisoners and restored confidence as his position on Little Round Top was held.
  • Lee Iacocca was an incredibly successful executive at Ford Motor Company in 1978. Even though the company posted a $2 billion profit that year, Iacocca was fired. While many people get down on themselves after being terminated, Iacocca quickly rose to the top again as the chief executive of the troubled Chrysler Motor Company and is credited with turning the company around.

True Control: Controlling One’s Self

Whether in the military, business, politics, church, or any other endeavor, leaders with high Emotional Intelligence are able to change the mood, motivate the people, and lead the organization to success.

Emotional Intelligence is the difference-maker for leadership. It requires that the leader suspend their own mood and emotions and communicate optimism and a positive vision.

It is the difference between leadership that creates dissonance and leadership that creates resonance. There are many examples in history of leaders with high Emotional Intelligence.

Dissonance or resonance may be seen in the culture of a leader’s organization by how he or she motivates people. Dissonant leadership can motivate for a while but requires great energy to sustain. On the other hand, resonant leadership that is actuated by Emotional Intelligence coupled with effective leadership abilities is self-sustaining by the synergy of the whole organization.

Developing a Higher Emotional Intelligence

Many scholars of Emotional Intelligence believe that people can improve and grow in this area of development. The premise in virtually all of the books and resources on the EQ subject suggest that one may improve his or her Emotional Intelligence area.

However, developing a higher Emotional Intelligence requires determination and presence of mind.

It requires moving from:


The last stage shows the presence of mind that Rocky Hurt dad as he helped save that  baby.

For those of the Christian faith, actuating Emotional Intelligence is the realization of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It requires that one internalize the principle until it is lived value.

So what are some examples you remember of emotional intelligence from history? Why is it difficult to act contrary to emotional stimuli? Are you growing in emotional intelligence? Does your workplace exhibit resonant or dissonant leadership? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Tom Cocklereece
Dr. Tom Cocklereece
 is CEO of RENOVA Coaching and Consulting, LLC
He is an author, professional coach, and leadership specialist
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L2L Contributing Author


  1. Sandy Cooper on May 30, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Dr. Cocklereece,

    Thanks for the article.

    I like your inclusion of the Unconscious Incompetence to the Unconscious Competence path and its applicability to EI. I completed my undergrad in human kinetics and was first exposed to this pattern of growth as it applies to motor control.

    Consistency in a leader has been shown to be one of the desired qualities that employees admire in good leaders, I think your explanation of “True Control: Controlling One’s Self” does a good job in supporting this way of thinking.

  2. kwalitisme on May 30, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Reblogged this on kwalitisme.

  3. kwalitisme on May 30, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    Reblogged this on kwalitisme.

  4. henkjordaanHenk on May 31, 2013 at 8:22 am

    Very useful illustration of emotional intelligence. Thank you!

  5. henkjordaan on May 31, 2013 at 8:24 am

    Very useful demonstration of emotional intelligence. Thank you!

  6. henkjordaan on May 31, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Reblogged this on Henkjordaan's Blog and commented:
    this is just a test to see how reblogging works