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Being the Best Leader...what does that Require?

Research shows that Emotionally Intelligent Leaders are the most competent, creative and inspirational. But what contributes towards emotional intelligence? There are four main components:

  • Self Awareness

  • Emotional and Self Management

  • Social Awareness

  • Being good at Relating

As the result of spending over quarter of a century observing wild animals with social behaviour, swimming with free, ocean-moving dolphins, and walking and talking with the Masai and the Bushmen, I realized good mental health and environmental sustainability go hand in hand. In other words healing and maturing ourselves, and sustaining the earth within the challenges of climate change, are intertwined.

Thus on Weekly Wilderness Webinars, as a Psychologist and Ecopsychologist, I encourage that wildlife wisdom can bring about psychological and consequent behavioural changes in humans, and humans who are more emotionally intelligent have a more advanced capability of living alongside all God created - human and non-human.

On this Weekly Wilderness Webinar our wildlife hosts were the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, and we asked the question:

Can we learn more about Emotionally Intelligent Leaders from observing the male sliver back?

To answer that question, please listen into our discussion recorded on the video below as well as the wildlife footage we engaged with on our vicarious online safari:

In Summary:

If we consider Emotional Intelligence can be measured by Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management, what can we learn from the Gorillas, especially from their leader, the Silver Back:

Self Awareness:

Self-awareness is at the core of everything. It describes our ability to not only understand our strengths and weaknesses, but to recognize how our emotions effect our team’s performance.

According to research by organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich, 95 percent of people think they’re self-aware, but only 10 to 15 percent actually are, and that can pose problems for employees. Working with a boss and colleagues who aren’t self-aware can cut a team’s success in half and, according to Eurich’s research, leads to increased stress and decreased motivation.

To bring out the best in others, you first need to bring out the best in yourself, which is where self-awareness comes into play. If you don't know who YOU are, how can you recognize the value and uniqueness in others?

One easy way to assess your self-awareness is by completing 360-degree feedback, in which you evaluate your performance and then match it up against the opinions of your boss, peers, and possible assessment questionnaires. Through this process, you’ll gain insights into your own behaviour and discover how you’re perceived in the organization.

How was the great silverback exemplifying self-awareness and an understanding of others in his family?

He immediately took responsibility for his own arousal and responded to the caution and concern evident in his family when a 'spy-baby-gorilla' was planted in their midst. He did not wait around for someone else to explore the danger, neither did he sit motionless in the branches of a tree where he was feeding hoping the problem would take care of itself. He faced the challenged immediately, and head on.

His self-awareness motivated him to be protective. He stood with his muscular, hairy arm between them and the unknown entity. The family were guided by his emotional demeanour, when he saw nothing was a threat to their wellbeing, he relaxed, and so did they. When he was ongoingly vigilant, but at ease, they felt secure to get on with their own lives.

Self Management:

Self-management refers to the ability to manage our emotions, particularly in stressful situations, and maintain a positive outlook despite setbacks. Leaders who lack self-management tend to react. A reaction tends to be automatic. The more one is emotionally intelligent, the easier it is to respond from a place of empathy, curiosity and understanding, rather than react.

Did the great silverback react or respond?

He showed a caring and immediate response, without 'losing it'. He did grunt for his family to stand back as he stepped forward to observe the 'spy-gorilla' but it was an expression they respected and understood, they did not fear his communication.

His self-management earned their trust.

Social Awareness:

Social awareness describes a leader's ability to recognize others’ emotions and the dynamics in play within his organization. Most importantly, leaders who excel in social awareness practice empathy. They strive to understand their colleagues’ feelings and perspectives, which enables them to communicate and collaborate more effectively with their peers. Empathy has been ranked as the number one leadership skill, reporting that leaders who master empathy perform more than 40 percent higher in coaching, engaging others, and decision-making.

Interestingly, by communicating with empathy, as a leader you are better supporting your team, all the while improving your individual performance.

Was our gorilla leader empathetic and socially aware?

Our silverback was not only aware of the responses and feelings of the young and old in his family, but he was in tune with the responses of the 'spy-gorilla'.

In response to his family's anxiety he was courageous and protective.

When he saw the 'spy-gorilla' avert his gaze, his social awareness in that situation helped him and the others in his clan relax. An aversion of a direct stare at a leader indicates submission, 'I mean no harm', and it shows that the 'spy-gorilla' knew gorilla etiquette that made it more acceptable in their presence.

Relationship Management:

Relationship management refers to a leader's ability to influence, coach, and mentor others, and resolve conflict effectively. Although it sometimes seems easier to avoid conflict, it’s important to address issues as they arise. Research shows that every unaddressed conflict can waste about eight hours of company time in gossip and other unproductive activities, putting a drain on resources and morale.

If leaders want to keep their team happy, they need to have those tough conversations.

How do these Wildlife Observations have Implications for Leaders:

  • To bring out the best in others you need to have personal clarity. You need to not only be self-aware, but alert to how your feeling-motivated actions impact others.

  • You need to have self composure no matter how irate, disappointed, rejected or cajoled you feel. This will gain respect you and trust. With cortisol levels in check you can show curiosity and engage clear headed solutions and suggestions.

  • Most importantly, leaders who excel in social awareness practice empathy. Understanding before judging, and being careful of colleagues’ feelings and perspectives, encourages enhanced communicate and effective collaboration.

  • Leaders who manage relationships within their organizations by being good listeners, approachable, and able to resolve conflict Relationship management refers to a leader's ability to influence, coach, and mentor others, and resolve conflict effectively save hours of company time being taken up with demoralizing gossip, slumps in productivity and an unnecessary a drain on resources and morale.


It seems an imperative follow up on Being a Great Leader, that this week we consider what contributes to creating Empathy?

Thus, On Wednesday 19th June 2024 at 6pm UK time, our next

Weekly Wilderness Webinar focuses on:

EMPATHY: Are you a People-Pleaser or Ultimately Understanding?

This is for Leaders who want to wholeheartedly genuine when connecting with their teams so that they inspire, empower and motivate unique mental toughness in their teams' performance.

We have some intriguing Wildlife Hosts this week: A lion and an Oryx - a connection between Predator & Prey, and the Painted Hunting Dogs who have the unprecedented species-specific quality of caring for the weakest link in their team. Rwanda.

Email me on if you would like to be included on future Weekly Wilderness Webinars, or if you would like to MONKEY AROUND on the next Wilderness Encounter that takes us on an adventure with the Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda, and then tree-topping in the Nyungwe Forest that hosts many different primate species, including Chimpanzees.

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