GATE – A Tool for More Effective Leadership

One of the areas in which I spend considerable time is emotional intelligence (EQ). It is top of mind for many of my clients, and it is an elective class I teach to high school students, our future leaders. Regardless of the age, title or phase of life, EQ practices help with many things, including response flexibility.

Response flexibility refers to the ways in which your emotional responses inform decisions. An emotional response begins when the brain is triggered:

  • The nervous system produces feelings (emotions) in the body.
  • The mind creates thoughts.

Combined, these two responses to the trigger help you assess and encapsulate your experience. The way in which you appraise, summarize and respond is done with great speed. Thus without awareness, discerning the cause and effect of your triggers is difficult.

Practices for self-awareness to discern the cause and effect raise your EQ. With an elevated EQ, you are better able to choose how you will respond to a trigger. One simple practice for raising your EQ is the GATE model. This model brings awareness to the following:

G – Goals

A – Actions

T – Thoughts

E – Emotions

With GATE, you bring attention to the webs that are created with the continuous stream of goals (G), actions (A), thoughts (T) and emotions (E) that run through your mind. An initial thought leads to an emotional feeling. That emotion produces an action. The action causes a new thought, which prompts another thought and then an emotional feeling. That feeling is followed by the establishment of a goal.

On and on it goes. GATE webs are being spun from almost every thought you have. The thoughts you use to make the webs result from behaving with either a “reaction to” or “action from.”

“Reacting to” is not the preferred response for an effective leader. But how to move from “reaction to” to “action from?”

Employing response flexibility – that is what enables a shift from “reaction” to “action.” This flexibility comes about from slowing down and distancing yourself from the GATE web. Specifically, you are cultivating self-awareness.

You are removing yourself from the center of the GATE web and stepping to the sidelines. From this position, you can observe the causes and effects in the chain of events from three perspectives:

  • Inside yourself
  • Outside yourself
  • With the goals, actions, thoughts, emotions (GATE)

To illustrate observing the cause and effect from the GATE, let’s look at two examples. The first example is reactive, and the second is active. Both examples are in response to the same initial thought and emotion:

  • Example 1 – Reactive response that builds on the initial emotion and does not discern cause and effect:

T: Initial Thought – There is much to do with time running down to the wire.

E: Initial Emotion – Panicky feeling in the gut


G: Goal – Make them see I am serious about on time completion of the project

A: Action – Threaten to fire the team if they don’t deliver results on time

T: New Thoughts – Poor performers. They deserve to be fired.

E: Emotion – Seething

This GATE web is being made with negative emotion, management by intimidation and disengaged employees.

  • Example 2: Active response that comes from self-awareness, shifting emotional response and discerning triggers for “cognizant” decision.

T: Initial Thought – There is much to do with time running down to the wire.

E: Initial Emotion – Panicky feeling in the gut


G: Goal – Work together to complete the project on time

A: Action – Serve the team. How do I help them with issues and risks?

T: New Thought – With focus, we can push this to completion.

E: Emotion – Determined

This GATE web is being spun with a shift to positive emotion. From that emotion, servant leadership and engaged employees are possible.


By fully embracing what is going on, shifting emotion and discerning cause and effect can help you with “conscious” choice. Instead of being helplessly dragged by the GATE web into reactive behavior, you are able to choose how to react to your triggers.

How well do you discern cause and effect for “conscious” decisions about your leadership behavior?