Study after study has shown that the most emotionally intelligent people tend to be the greatest leaders and are the best at their jobs in general.
So, what is emotional intelligence? To put it simply, being “master of your emotions” is being able to stand as a great and sturdy oak in the face of constant battering. No matter the extent of the wind, rain, or storms (setbacks, criticisms, or failures), you are able to hold your ground and press on.
Great leaders are able to do this. It isn’t — as some may think — that these great individuals were “lucky” or fortunate in their upbringing. It isn’t even that they were especially talented (though many were). The true defining factor seems to be that these individuals were particularly emotionally intelligent. They kept their cool even when things went wrong.
Let’s take a look at five great figures from history who truly mastered their emotions.
1. Julius Caesar
“Crossing the Rubicon” is a colloquial phrase used today to define an action that one cannot turn back from after it has been completed. The phrase comes from Julius Caesar, a great Roman general who, upon bringing his army across the river Rubicon in Italy and marching them into the City of Rome took an action that was, at that time, against all Roman laws. He later became the de facto first emperor of Rome (or the first Caesar at least).
Roman historians tell us that he was able to take this action with a cool, calm, and reserved presence that denoted his entire duty as general and all of his reign.
Napoleon was hugely instrumental in changing the face of France and the entire continent of Europe throughout the 19th century. Europe as it is today is largely the way it is because of Napoleon.
One of the ways in which he mastered his emotional intelligence was by actually coming back after ultimately losing his campaign and being exiled to the Island of Corsica. Not only was he cool and collected enough to master nearly the entire continent of Europe during his initial campaign, but he was not even put off enough by his exile and was actually able to return to Europe to attempt another turn as a great European leader.
3. George Washington
It was George Washington’s calm and steady resilience against the seemingly never-ending onslaught of the Redcoats during the American Revolutionary War that ultimately helped him persist at Valley Forge and win the war for the colonists.
In fact, George Washington was so calm and resigned in his abilities that he was prepared to simply move to his country home and resume his agricultural endeavors after the war. That didn’t happen, however, as his troops rallied him to become the first president.
4. Catherine the Great
Catherine the Great was actually a German princess who was married off to a Russian nobleman and ultimately became the Empress of Russia.
She was steady-headed and even-keeled in the face of even the most frightening political situations. In fact, she had the calm presence of mind to actually usurp her husband’s place as the Emperor of Russia by intervening at exactly the right time when the last monarch perished. She ultimately seized the throne and put her would-be emperor husband in prison.
5. Abraham Lincoln
The 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln was known for his stoic, calm demeanor. As a lawyer, he was highly successful at arguing his side of any case without becoming overly emotional or hysterical. This surely had some hand in helping him win the presidency and, ultimately, the American Civil War.
Are You Master of Your Emotions?
There’s much we can learn from the great leaders of history. Surely, one of the most important is emotional intelligence.
If you would like to cultivate more emotional intelligence in your own life, consider the following.
In your life, you are actually in control of very little. At any given moment, a long list of terrible things could happen to you, to your home, to your country, and to the people you love. Likewise, even small, annoying things happen to you every day that you don’t control. You drop a glass and break it. You trip and fall. You hit a deer in your car. You notice mold in your bathroom.
But there is one thing that you can control, and this is true across the board — no matter what. You can always control your emotions. You — and only you — control the way you feel, think … and ultimately, act. But before actions and thoughts, you have to control the way you feel. These are your emotions.
Work at becoming emotionally intelligent. Notice when you get riled up. Learn to take cues from yourself, never from others. Ride your difficult emotions like waves and let them settle on their own. Doing these things and mastering your emotions can bring you a vast treasure of success and happiness in life.