Minnesota Swede Blog

Emotional Intelligence: Photo Elicitation


Emotional intelligence is a fairly new scientific hypothesis. Although the idea emerged a little less than a century ago, it is only recently that it was proposed as a testable hypothesis and model. Instead of quatifying what are considered the hard skills that are associated with mathematics and science, as is the case with IQ, it proposes to quantify the soft skills such as empathy, relationship building, accurate self awareness, and adaptibility. Of course, emotional intelligence is scrutinized by supporters of the intellience quotient test. It is argued that it is impossible to quantify emotions.

For example, how can one quantify relationship management skills like building bonds, teamwork and collaboration, influencing and developing others? How can someone quantify self management skills like trustworthiness, concientiousness, adaptability, and achievement? It is safe to assume that most people would agree that these ideas can be qualified. That is more than likely not an issue. However, quantifying these ideas and actions is quite a different story. There is disagreement if emotions can be quantified. But that is not the purpose of this article. Throughout the next three sections, examples of emotional intelligence will be explored in three areas of industry in Stockholm, Sweden: the Public School System, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and LO-Sweden. As a conclusion, an argument will be proposed that involves men voicing and supporting feminism as an American policy to help perpetuate the upward mobility and success of women in the market place.

Public School System

Matt Johnson (left) and Lee Orberson (right) - May 20, 2015

Matt Johnson (left) and Lee Orberson (right) – May 20, 2015

Lee Orberson served seven years in the United States Army. He spent four years with the infantry and three years with the Rangers. Lee was born in Sweden, but his father is from Kentucky. In fact, Lee enlisted in the United States Army through a recruiter in europe. After the military, Lee returned to Sweden to finish his education. College is subsidized by the government in Sweden. In other words, it is not free per se. Rather, it is a pass it forward system. Anyway, Lee became a high school teacher – History/Geography – but eventually moved into administration. Today, Lee is the Regional Superintendent of public schools in Stockholm, Sweden and his emotional intelligence runs extremely high.

During a visit to Stockholm’s public school administration office by the Iowa State University Global Leadership Study Abroad Program, Lee was asked what the difference was between leadership in the military context, specifically the United States military, and leadership in the educational context? Lee replied that people are people and that people deserve to be treated like human beings no matter the context. He agreed and recognized that the United States military is a staunchly androcentric environment, but despite that fact, people respond to courtesy and respect. As Lee illustrates,

[The] psychology is rougly the same for productive leadership between the military and education.

In other words, Lee recognized his social awareness in the form of organizational awareness and service orientation; that is, the difference between the military and education. But he also recognized his own self management and how he treated different people in different environments and how people responded to that empathy and courtesy.

To elucidate Lee’s emotional intelligence further, Stephanie McMillan, undergraduate student in the program, asked him how he tailored the teaching styles and classroom environments to different students with different abilities. Lee responded,

Inclusion, diversity and planning. Plan for the students you have, not for the students you don’t have.

Inspirational and rational words from an inspirational and rational leader. Using his relationship management skills, a quadrant of emotional intelligence, Lee focuses on developing the students he has, the students his teachers have, not the students they don’t have. Within this context, Lee’s focus is “[i]nclusion, diversity, and planning.” He is clearly aware of himself and he is aware of others and their differences to him and to the other students, teachers and administrators. Lee accepts the people around him. It is his empathy that facilitates a successful environment for all of those who participate in it. Finally, Lee is aware of the criticisms of the Stockholm public school system, he respects those criticisms, but to him, it is about the equity and the equality for the children and it is the children and the environment they grow up in that seems to be the most important to him, no matter their background.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Eric Sundstrom (left) and Matt Johnson (right) - May 21, 2015

Eric Sundstrom (left) and Matt Johnson (right) – May 21, 2015

As Eric Sundström, political strategist for Minister of Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström, stated, Sweden’s foreign policy is a feminist policy. This of course is a very different way of thinking about politics especially for those who are representives in politics and for those who think about the philosophy of politics. Would an American politician or a strategist, an American male politician or strategist for that matter, ever state without regard for publication that the current government’s position is that of feminism? Clearly this is a different point of view. But does this point of view consist of emotional intelligence?

Consider this, emotional intelligence consists of self awareness, self management, social awareness, and self management. In Eric’s position, he takes the position of women despite being a man. A person might say, “What’s in it for him?” But that is precisely the point. Thank you for proving it. Eric in his statement illustrates empathy for women and for what they have had to endure throughout human history all the way back, to at least, the dawn of human civilization. Eric understands that women in the United States were not given the right to vote until the 19th amendment in 1920. He is an avid and admitted political junky of American politics and he is cognizant that women in Sweden did not gain the right to vote until 1921. But as Eric understands it, suffrage does not end with legislation. Views on women are embedded in cultural norms. As he rhetorically proposed during a sitdown – question and answer session at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

How can you heal a country when men are the only ones involved in the peace process? There is no peace with the [continued] oppression of women.

Today, no more than 20 percent of the United States congress, in either house, is represented by women. In Sweden, it is less than 50 percent in parliament, the Riksdag. But whereas the term feminism itself is not very well understood in the United States, it is embraced and applied as policy in Sweden. Indeed, the idea of this application should not only be mind-blowing to the American reader, but it should be difficult to comprehend. This is because the relationship between feminism and American politics lacks empathy of the plight of women and subsequently an ignorance of history.

In Eric’s quote, the focus is on including women in the agenda setting and policy making process. In emotional intelligence language, this is relationship management; that is, inspiring women and developing women as future leaders. Indeed, American politicians will state that there ought to be more women in leadership positions, but will they refer to inspiration and development as a necessary component of the peace process? Will they acknowledge the legitimacy of feminism as a viable alternative to the highly androcentric culture that is the American culture?

The Swedish Trade Union Confederation

Veronica Middlebrook (left), Oscar Ernerot (center), and Matt Johnson (right) - May 26, 2015

Veronica Middlebrooks (left), Oscar Ernerot (center), and Matt Johnson (right) – May 26, 2015

Oscar Ernerot is the Ombudsman for LO-Sweden; that is, the Swedish Trade Union Confederation. The LO-Sweden is a labor movement organization that involves itself in the welfare and solidarity of workers in Sweden and abroad. Its focus is to first provide employment to Swedish workers with the hopes of providing a better life. It also focuses on the education, continuing education, and enrichment of its workers. As Oscar conveyed during a visit by the students of the Iowa State University Global Leadership Study Abroad Program, Gender is at the foundation of the Confederations’ policies; thus, LO willingly takes a feminist position like that of the Swedish government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

When asked by the author of Urban Dynamics if the LO was aware of and acknowledged the discrepancy of representation between men and women at the board level of its very own organization, three men and one woman, Oscar strongly agreed with the observation, displaying self awareness of his own organization, and stated that one of the main missions of the LO was to correct that unequal respresentation.

The LO recognizes its imbalance at the board level. They also recognize that women stall at the the mid-management level as author Alice Eagly explains and illustrates in her book Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About how Women Become Leaders. The Confederation is well aware of this fact. They also recognize that male leaders take on other males to prepare for leadership; men usually, and for the most part, do not take on female apprentices. They recognize that this takes place at greater rates and is a part of the continued perpetuation of male leaders in the work place. The question is what to do about it. Honestly, the LO is not sure what to do about it at this point and time, although they are exploring solutions and will continue to look for solutions.

From this exchange, it is clear that The LO’s emotional intelligence encompasses self awareness in the form of accurate self awareness; its emotional intellignece encompasses self management in the form of the drive to succeed; its emotional intelligence encompasses social awareness in the form of empathy and organizational awareness; and its emotional intelligence encompasses relationship management in the form of developing others. Although the focus is all employees, the upward mobility and success of women is specifically important because of the historical oppression and depression of women.

Final Thoughts

Emotional intelligence skills are highly sought after in the current market place. A person high in emotional intelligence is twice as likely to be hired than a person deficient in intelligence quotient. And the evidence supports this need. In addition, there is a monetary incentive for EI as well. Travis Bradberry points out in his article in Forbes,

Of all the people we’ve studied at work, we’ve found that 90% of top performers are also high in emotional intelligence. On the flip side, just 20% of bottom performers are high in emotional intelligence. You can be a top performer without emotional intelligence, but the chances are slim. Naturally, people with a high degree of emotional intelligence make more money—an average of $29,000 more per year than people with a low degree of emotional intelligence. The link between emotional intelligence and earnings is so direct that every point increase in emotional intelligence adds $1,300 to an annual salary. These findings hold true for people in all industries, at all levels, in every region of the world. We haven’t yet been able to find a job in which performance and pay aren’t tied closely to emotional intelligence.

If the argument is feminist policies for the perpetuation and proponderance of women in the workplace, then emotional intelligence must be a part of that argument. As the Swedish examples have illustrated, the inclusion and diversity of women in the workplace is paramount to the success of a society. The more women there are in the market place, the greater the opportunity for women to become leaders; the more men who support women, the greater and deeper level of emotional intelligence that will exist in a culture. And as a consequence, the children of today and of tomorrow will experience a greater level of existence and, thus, happiness; the women of today and of tomorrow will experience a greater level of responsibility and leadership and, thus, happiness; and the workers of today and of tomorrow will experience a greater level of opportunity and stability in employment, a greater level of economic viability and upward mobility, and a greater level of worker solidarity no matter the industry and, thus, happiness. However, the question remains, are there American men willing to step up, take responsibility, take on the feminist philosophy, and facilitate a movement for women’s equity and equality in the United States? Perhaps emotional intelligence can be a part of that movement?


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