How Can Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Make You a Better Leader?

Leaders have tough but important jobs: leading a team of exceptional people to buy into one vision and inspire that team to work in unison in the direction of a common goal. However, not all leaders know how to do this successfully.

So, the question is – why do some leaders succeed where others fail?

One of the distinguishing factors is that most great leaders prosper because they have a very high degree of emotional intelligence (also known as EQ).

Now the question is – can emotional intelligence be learned?

Many leaders are naturally gifted at controlling or knowing their emotions.  They seem to recognize how to make others comfortable or get them engaged, or just simply give them whatever it is that they need at any specific time.

But here’s the good news. While some leaders have a natural talent for EQ, those who don’t can learn how to become an emotionally intelligent leader.  In fact, there has been intensive research conducted to support this fact. Not just leaders, but anyone, can learn how to relate to others more effectively and increase their emotional intelligence. To be successful though, you must be personally motivated to do so.  You need to first recognize where you are starting from (the “assessment”) and then decide which of the 5 components of EQ need your utmost attention.

Listed below are each one of the 5 components and some action items that will aid you in each area.

  • Self-Awareness– Practicing self-awareness on a regular basis is key to learning emotional intelligence. Every day, at least once or twice, ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?” Once you begin to do this regularly, and if you are honest with yourself, you will notice your emotions start to shift.

Action Items:

  1. Observe others. We are more alike than we are different. When you begin observing others, you will learn a great deal about your own behavior.
  2. Identify Target Behaviors. You will find that it is best to work on one behavior at a time. This can be anything you choose, from how frequently you get distracted to how often you let your temper get the best of you. Choose the most important one and monitor that first. Measure how frequently that specific behavior happens, and for how long. Observing your behavior in this way is key to creating Do you give in easily to that behavior, or are you able to practice self-control?
  3. Reward Yourself. You can strengthen good behaviors by building a reward into your strategy. Every time you notice yourself conducting yourself in a better way, reward yourself. Plan ahead and decide what type of reward you would like for each behavioral issue.
  • Self-Regulation– Create a list of things that impact you positively toward reducing any negative emotions that you may be experiencing. Learning to rid yourself of negative feelings will skyrocket not only your EQ but also your leadership and motivation skills.

Action Items:

  1. Remove Obstacles to Positivity. Before you can increase positivity within yourself and your team, it is necessary to remove the things that stand in its way. These “barriers” can swiftly weaken you and your team’s growth and decrease enthusiasm. To be truly happy, you must first remove the sources of negativity, and then add the “motivators” that produce positivity. Create an anonymous poll at the office, and have everyone fill it out. If you are the cause of some negativity, research and learn how to dispel the behavior. If the cause is compensation, bonuses, another co-worker, etc., work with your team to diffuse the situation. Take all suggestions seriously. Would your team be happier if you provided more education opportunities? Training? Coaching? Mentoring? Flexible hours? Would you benefit from these as well?
  2. Your Working Environment is Important. Take the necessary steps to make a healthy work environment for you and your team. Your offices and workspaces must be comfortable, have good lighting or windows, be clean and safe. And, minimize distractions so that you and others are able to focus on work.
  3. Provide Support. Support your team by making sure that they have all the necessary tools, skills and resources they need to get the job done properly.
  • Motivation – Motivation is extremely important to leadership, cooperation, managing skills, and business. The emotionally intelligent business who practices motivation constantly excels in all other areas as well. An organization or leader who is emotionally intelligent and knows how to motivate themselves and others will be successful, productive, confident, likable, happy and rewarded.

Action Items:

  1. Create a “Vision Board” consisting of the things that motivate you and the goals that you are striving to reach.  Refer to this board often, every day is best.
  2. You can also motivate yourself by having what great leaders call “A Definite Chief Aim”. Decide what it is you want to achieve in the coming year. Write it down on a piece of paper and hang it where you will see it at least a couple of times a day (maybe near your desk). When you look over at it, read it each time. Stating your intentions like this on a daily basis will eventually become a reality. No kidding! Give it a try! As a matter of fact, check out Napoleon Hill’s “Laws of Success”. It’s a book every leader should have.
  • Empathy – Being able to genuinely express empathy is a big one. Here are a few ways to learn empathy.
  1. Feeling angry or upset with someone? Prior to saying something you will most likely regret, take a deep breath and slowly count to 10 (without being obvious, of course). I can almost guarantee that by the time you reach 10, you will figure out a better way of communicating the problem. This will help to reduce to the problem instead of complicating it. If you are still upset after counting to 10, take a little while to yourself and come back to the issue after you have calmed down.
  2. Another way to lessen a reactive moment is to attempt to put yourself in the shoes of the other person involved. They may be difficult shoes to fill. If you can do this, even for just a moment, you will be much more apt to be understanding and calm. Say to yourself, “It must not be easy….” And then reconsider the situation.
  • Social Skills– Possessing proper social skills is a pretty significant trait for a leader to have. The best way to begin learning better social skills is to buy a calendar, separate from any other calendars you may use, and start scheduling ways to reach out to others and build stronger relationships. But here is another example of improving your social skills.

Action Items:

  1. Be a Good Communicator. Listen well to those around you, making sure that you understand what is said, and pursue open sharing of information.
  2. Conflict Management. Respectable conflict managers bring differences out into the open and create a resolution. They use the sharing of emotions to inspire discussion and open dialogue helping each person involved to recognize the other’s feelings. A great conflict manager obtains a win-win solution.


You can observe your emotions as you practice honing in on them, and accept them without judgment. Starting with increased mindfulness of your emotional state will help you to make better choices with regard to how you behave toward yourself and others.

Your journey to becoming more emotionally intelligent always begins with you, but it is also a good idea to pursue outside viewpoints. Many times, we are too close to our own actions to see or understand them.

Ask close friends or family for constructive and truthful criticism about your blind spots. This will help you to learn things yourself that you wouldn’t otherwise notice. Be ready to accept their responses with humbleness and grace as some realities can be uncomfortable to face and deal with. If you really want this, be prepared and inspired to go forth on a new path to great leadership. Become the leader you inspire to be!

I can guarantee you that building strong connections through EQ is a much safer bet than doing nothing at all. I encourage you to #gobeyondhope and build a measurable strategy!

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