What is your default emotion driven behaviour and why?

I have recently started a coaching piece using two key diagnostics – the Human Synergistics Life Styles Inventory (to measure leader behaviour) and the MSCEIT (Mayer Salovey Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test).

In brief, the LSI is a wonderful tool for examining behaviour and divides behaviours into those driven by satisfaction needs and those driven by the need for security. The security driven behaviours are either passive defensive, or aggressive defensive. The LSI circumplex allocates 12 different behaviours into colour codes – blue for constructive, green for passive defensive and red for aggressive defensive.

There is a great coaching dialogue to be had around people’s default behaviours and where they go under stress (red or green), but I have found it to be even more powerful when overlaid with emotional intelligence because our behavioural decisions are either driven by logic, or driven by emotion.

In order to change your behavioural choices, it helps enormously to reflect on what emotion is driving them and the underlying reasons for the emotion.

Let’s take a look at the universal reasons behind the 5 meta emotions:

  • Happiness – Progress. Things are working out, or have worked out for me.
  • Anger – Interference. Someone or something is getting in the way of my goals or challenging my beliefs.
  • Sadness – Loss. Something that is important to me is gone.
  • Disgust – Offence. Something or someone has offended me.
  • Fear – Threat. Something is either physically or psychologically threatening me.

Emotional intelligence helps you to understand and manage the triggers of your behaviours. When you feel threatened, stressed, challenged – what behaviours do you default to and why? What is pushing your buttons?  What do you fear?

Well-developed EI enables you to do the following:

  • Recognise your emotions and those of others.
  • Use emotions strategically.
  • Understand emotions – how they change, escalate and how they blend together.
  • Manage your emotions and influence those of people around you.

(Read more about emotional intelligence at and

When you understand the emotional reasons for your behaviour you can make better choices and decisions.

For example, when I need security I adopt aggressive defensive behaviour. The challenge for me is to stop, identify what emotion is driving my behaviour, and make better choices. Let’s walk it through.

 – I recognise that I am feeling the urge to be critical of my colleague. Why?

 – By criticising this person, I feel better about myself.

 – What is really going on for me that is causing me to need to protect myself?

 – I am feeling insecure about the project I am working on.

 – What I fear is that I will fail.

 – What would be a better, constructive, blue response to this person?

 – And most importantly, now I have identified what I really fear, how do I address that so I am no longer feeling threatened?

Being open to behaviours and emotions as resources, understanding them and managing them strategically is an important skill for leaders.

How good are you at managing your behaviours? Are you open to your emotions as data? Do you make constructive choices? What would your team say if you asked them?

Contact Ros for leadership development, coaching and facilitation, or if you have questions about the topics – or visit Shaping Change at

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