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The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: A book review by Bob Morris

The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights
Daniel Goleman
More Than Sound (2011)

Recent refinements of "a framework to highlight a new field, affective neuroscience"

These are articles selected by Daniel Goleman to be anthologized in a single volume as his research continues to focus on one of the most important and least understood business subjects: emotional intelligence (EI). Opinions are divided as to its origins. My own opinion is that the distinctions between intellectual and emotional capabilities can be traced back at least to Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. Charles Darwin has much of value to say about the importance of emotional expression and E.L. Thorndike introduced the term "social intelligence" which was later characterized as "people skills." Others such as David Wechsler, David McClelland, Howard Gardner, David Payne, Peter Salovey and John Mayer, Reuven Bar-On, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee have also made significant contributions but, in my opinion, Goleman has done the most valuable research on emotional intelligence (usually in collaboration with those whom he always acknowledges, such as Boyzatis and McKee) and then, in a series of brilliant books and dozens of articles, helped more people than anyone else ever has to apply the EI principles in all of their relationships, including but certainly not limited to the workplace.

Heaven knows how many marriages and other relationships as well as careers have been saved thus far by effective application of the principles on which the framework for Goleman's EI model is based: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and the ability to manage relationships. What we have in The Brain and Emotional Intelligence are 14 separate but related essays in which he provides "new insights." Actually, they are updates on on-going research. As he explains, these are "some new findings that further inform our understanding of emotional intelligence and how to apply this skill set, introduced in Primal Leadership. "This book is not an exhaustive, technical review of scientific data"; rather, a refinement of "a framework to highlight a new field, affective neuroscience."

Here are three brief excerpts from several dozen passages that caught my eye:

"So in making [a] decision, a gut sense of it being right or wrong is important information, too. It's not that you should ignore other data, but if it doesn't fit what you're feeling, maybe you should think twice about it...The answer to the question, 'Is what I'm about to do in keeping with my sense of purpose, meaning, or ethics?' doesn't come to us in words; it comes to us via this gut sense. Then we put it into words." (Page 20)

"You may have heard a classic model of the four stages of creativity (it's more than century old): Step one, you define and frame the problem...Second, immerse yourself, dig deep...The third phase is a little counter-intuitive for some people: let it all go, Just relax...The final stage, the fourth, is execution -- and of course, many brilliant ideas fail here, because they aren't implemented well." (24-25)

"Now some good news: that's neuromythology. This new understanding is what's called 'neureogenesis': Every day the brain generates 10,000 stem cells that split into two. One becomes a daughter line that continues making stem cells, and the other migrates to wherever it's needed in he brain and becomes that kind of cell. Very often that destination is where the cell is needed for new learning...Neurogenesis adds power to our understanding of neuroplasticity, that the brain continually reshapes itself according to the experiences we have." (68)

I realize that no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the scope of material that Daniel Goleman provides in this volume but I hope that I have at least suggested why I think so highly of it. Also, I hope that those who read this commentary will be better prepared to determine whether or not they wish to read the book and, in that event, will have at least some idea of how a better understanding of affective neroscience can help to accelerate the development of their emotional intelligence, an achievement that would be of substantial benefit to them as well as to the success of their organization.

For those preparing for a career in business or have only recently embarked on, and who aspire to become leaders, this book is a "must read" -- as is its companion volume, Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence, both published by More Than Sound (2011). I also highly recommend the aforementioned Primal Leadership as well as LEADERSHIP: A Master Class, a set of nine DVDs which provide Daniel Goleman's one-on-one conversations with several "masters" of thought leadership: Daniel J. Siegel ("The Leader's Mind"), Warren Bennis (The Socially Intelligent Leader"), Erica Ariel Fox ("Getting Beyond Yes"), Claudio Fernández-Aråoz ("Talent Strategy"), Bill George ("Authentic Leadership"), Teresa Amabile ("Create to Innovate"), Howard Gardner ("Today's Leadership Imperative"), and George Kohlrieser ("High Performance Leadership").

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