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Michelle Obama’s Emotional Intelligence

I am always in search of people who exemplify the convergence, synergy, balance, or integration of Power, Heart and Mindfulness—the three dimensions of emotionally intelligent people. These are the people who bring positive energy and productivity to every relationship they touch, whether the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the janitor at a local high school, your (favorite) uncle—or the First Lady of the United States. As a case in point, Michelle Obama’s emotional intelligence shines through admirably in her public speaking.

While watching the First Lady speak at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, I saw a woman who had the dynamic balance of Power, Heart and Mindfulness. I was not just listening to a good speech, but a good woman as well.  Whether you are Democrat, Independent, or Republican, if you were listening, you had to know this in your gut. You might disagree with her politics, but she represents a minority of people who can find the relational sweet-spot at the intersection of power, heart and mindfulness.

That night, Michelle Obama’s emotional intelligence was clearly evident: She was self-possessed (in a good way), confident, clear, a woman of conviction and focus. She was powerful, yet filled with love, passion, and compassion.

This speech was neither for nor about her. It was about those she cares about, the American people, especially the ones who can’t drive yet—children. Some people give a speech and you know it is for and (sometimes) about them. They might mouth words of compassion but mostly they just want to hear their own “wonderful” voice. I believe Michelle meant what she said deep down in her heart.

Last but not least, she was mindful. Mindful people are thoughtful and knowing. They look before they leap, think before they act, and contain feelings deeply before they act upon them. She demonstrated poise and grace and self-control—but not too much so as to not have some well-deserved righteous indignation.

When you put the positive attributes from these three dimensions together, flowing in the same person at the same time, you get a person operating in their relational “sweet spot.” You get Michelle Obama that night. But I do not think that it was just that one evening. I have the suspicion that she is a compassionate lioness with a brain most of the time (and yes, that was a reference to The Wizard of Oz).

If a stool loses even a single leg, you would get a person out of balance. Perhaps he’s a person who has a tendency towards Power, but lacks real Heart or Mindfulness, and you end up with a self-centered narcissist. This person might look strong to some, but they are ineffective and weak. If you have someone with heart (empathy), but no courage (Power) or brain (Mindfulness), you have a spineless appeaser. And if you have someone with Heart and Power but no Mindfulness, you get ideologues –whether on the right or the left – who cannot think realistically or know when to compromise.

So whether you are looking for a partner to spend the rest of your life with, a friend to go through life with, a boss to manage you, or a president to lead the country you and your children live in, look for someone who exhibits something like Michelle Obama’s emotional intelligence.

Look for someone who is balanced in Power, Heart and Mindfulness. These are the people the country, even our world, should clearly have in abundance.