Guest comment: Keeping those emotions in 'cheque'

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Graham Ward, former co-head of pan-European equities at Goldman Sachs, on why it won't do to whoop or wail about your bonus.

If Daniel Goleman is to be believed, emotional intelligence (EQ) is a far stronger currency in leadership than intellectual horsepower. Yet EQ is stretched to the limit at bonus time.

As you take the call inviting you to the boss's office to collect your annual shilling, a year's worth of emotions are crystallised into a five minute meeting. There is rarely time for discussion. You sit down, are told your number, shake hands and walk out. It is at the point when your hand leaves the doorknob of the office and you turn to meet the quizzical and expectant gaze of a hundred colleagues that perhaps your next year will be defined. The unconscious signals you project tell them everything they need to know.

It is for this reason alone that the following behaviours should be avoided at all cost. First, the Jose Mourinho on-one-knee, fist pumping the air and eyes narrowed, scenario. I have seen it and it is disturbing to witness. It signifies immaturity, gross materialism and a lack of sensitivity to those who may emerge in camp two where the shilling turned out to be a farthing. You may also have your vodka spiked with laxative at the Xmas party for your pains.

The slumped shoulders, hangdog visage, resigned look doesn't cut it either. Many will think you are bluffing, especially if you quietly get on the phone and order the latest Bentley Continental. The rest will simply think you are a loser and not a person to consort with. The third commonplace reaction is to get annoyed. Usually expressed with some variation of "I hate this place, I don't know why we work here..." This is plain silly. You work there for the same reason as everyone else: To get a bigger bonus than the one you just received.

The greatest leaders are neither humbled in defeat nor exultant in victory. Your bonus is simply a by-product of what you do. If you earn too much, see it as an opportunity to do some good, following the example of Bill and Warren. If you earned too little, put your emotional energy into thinking about why. Then either fix it or move on. If your ambition is to lead, though, take the emotional middle road. Moreover, whatever the outcome, hold your head high. Don't allow a cheque to define how you feel about yourself!

· The author is a partner at and a programme director at INSEAD Business School's Global Leadership Centre.

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