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The Underrated Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership: A Case Study on American Airlines

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

On May 31st, International Flight Attendant Appreciation Day, one would expect an outpouring of respect and gratitude for diligent flight attendants around the world. After all, they are the face of major airlines that transport millions of us every day of the year.


However, this year, the flight attendants of American Airlines found themselves feeling anything but appreciated. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) representing them shared feelings of being "grossly underappreciated, unsupported, and ignored."


This sentiment seems at odds with American Airlines' public proclamation of admiration for its 26,000-strong flight attendant workforce. Yet, the discord between what the organization professes externally and what it embodies internally tells a story of disconnect — a stark example of leadership without emotional intelligence.


Creating Passionate & Dedicated Workforce


Emotional intelligence, often relegated to the back burner in leadership discussions, is a crucial ingredient in maintaining a motivated workforce. This concept is the bedrock of Emotional Excellence, a psychological principle rooted in the universal human affinity for reward.


For instance, think of a child who is promised a cookie for making their bed. The reward not only motivates the child to complete the task but also does so with zeal, transforming a mundane chore into an exciting experience. In the workplace, this principle translates into understanding what motivates each employee and channeling that knowledge to incite passion and dedication.


Contrary to traditional methods of punishment for under performance, reward-driven motivation cultivates a more positive and productive environment. It's akin to the age-old wisdom — attracting more bees with honey than vinegar. Praise employees for their accomplishments, and watch as they increasingly engage in activities aligned with the organization's goals.


Tools for Emotional Intelligence


This seemingly simple principle is often overlooked or poorly implemented, leading to situations like the one at American Airlines. Misalignment between leadership and employees, inadequate support, and stringent policies are indicators of an emotionally unintelligent leadership, leading to disgruntled employees and protracted contract negotiations.


Emotional intelligence training can help alleviate these issues by providing tools to build a rewarding, empathetic work culture. These experiential training sessions encompass information presentations, dynamic role-play, group discussions, and Q&A sessions, enabling a comprehensive understanding of how to cultivate excellence within the organization.


You get teams who communicate more precisely, understand each other with empathy, and get far more accomplished with fewer bottlenecks and emotional fires to put out.


I often produce videos for documenting excellence in corporate culture. It lets your people celebrate their progress and can help lead other groups in the company to new ideas and growth.


Shifting Company Culture Toward Excellence


Such a shift in company culture might seem daunting, but pursuing excellence is a battle worth fighting. Creating an environment where employees feel valued, recognized, and adequately rewarded can drastically improve morale, trust, performance, and overall job satisfaction.


This is particularly important in the current climate where your most valuable employees are difficult to replace. Keeping people happy and motivated can lower costs while giving you a decided edge over competitors, especially in the long run.


The case of American Airlines serves as a potent reminder of the importance of emotionally intelligent leadership. An emotionally intelligent leader is more than just a figurehead; they are a motivator, empathizer, a mentor who understands the individual needs of their employees, models the emotional tone of the communication climate and leverages this understanding to drive their organization towards success.


Carlos Raposo is a world class speaker, corporate trainer, video producer, and dynamic leadership coach working with companies of all sizes in many industries to help bring an improved communication climate and rewarding self-awareness to the entire firm. Your people will perform far better with his inspired training in emotional management, empathy, and synchronization to more easily reach impressive excellence. Discover www.carlosraposocoaching.com

(c) 2023 Carlos Raposo Coaching, LLC. All rights reserved.




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1 Comment


Unknown member
Jun 03, 2023

Thank you, Carlos, for always helping us with your wisdom and great work ethics!

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