Emotional Intelligence: The 4 EQ elements needed to be a successful leader

What if one of the clearest pathways to becoming an outstanding leader in any company started with developing characteristics that would improve every area of your life?


In case you missed it, we shared an article some time back focusing on the four elements of emotional intelligence (EQ)-- and all about why it’s superlative to IQ when it comes to employability and excellence within any organization.

Emotional Intelligence is one of the primary factors needed to possess great leadership capabilities. Intelligence is usually thought of someone who excels in math and sciences, or someone who can comprehend and articulate the most complex algorithms. But IQ isn’t the only measurement of intelligence, and certainly is not the most important when striving to move into a leadership position within a company. Studies have shown that people with a higher EQ advance further and quicker within a company compared to people with a high IQ and a lower EQ. This is because people with a higher EQ work well with others and have the skills to cultivate better relationships. So, naturally, people with a high EQ will more likely get promoted to manager level roles where they are expected to work well with teams.

There are four skill areas of EQ, divided into two parts: Perception and Behaviour.

Perception encompasses your sense of awareness, while Behaviour covers the way in which that awareness is managed. And here is the best news: studies show that all four EQ skill areas can be learned and increased, unlike a person’s IQ, which cannot be changed.

So, how might you go about improving your own emotional intelligence?

By gaining a better understanding of what each of the four elements mean, and implementing a few easy strategies, you can be well on your way to increasing your emotional stability, bettering your relationships with co-workers, and, ultimately, furthering your success and the success of your company.

1. Self-Awareness

: Self-awareness is the ability to understand and recognize your own emotions. Here are some ways to improve your self-awareness:

Accept your emotions.

They are just feelings. Acknowledging them is important to gaining perspective on them.

Observe your interactions with your peers.

How do your emotions affect them? What role do your own emotions play in your relationships?

Reflect on your learnings.

Don’t just let them pass by. Think on what you have observed.

Lean into discomfort.

Don’t try to combat your emotions with judgement. Be okay with a bit of discomfort, knowing that growth lies there.

Use a journal.

Keep track of the patterns and differences in your emotions. Do you always feel sad in the morning? Is midday the peak of your happy feelings? Write about your feelings without censoring them.

Know how to interpret your feelings.

What does a particular set of emotions communicate about you? Does hunger, lack of sleep, or stress play a role?

Take note of your habits when you are being challenged.

Are you defensive in the face of a tough situation? Or are you patient with understanding and responding to the situation?

Know that only sadness requires relief, not anger.

For example, if you express “road rage” while driving, the negative effects will last much longer than if you stay calm and don’t release your anger. On the flip side, if you are sad, you need to release your emotion to overcome it.

2. Self-Management

: Self-management is the ability to handle or cope with your own emotions. Here are some ways to improve your self-management:

You can learn to rewire default reactions.

There is a small almond-shaped part of the brain called the amygdala, which controls your reactions to strong emotions. It is often referred to as the “mood bender”. Studies have shown that these reactions are malleable, and we can learn to actually rewire the default reactions by teaching our brain a new way of handling different emotions.

Taking deep breaths can calm you down.

Slowing down by focusing on long inhales and exhales is a practical tool for reducing stress quickly.

Engage in logic.

Did you know you cannot simultaneously engage the logical side and the emotional side of your brain? So, when you’re feeling a very strong emotion, using the logical side of your brain will counter the feelings you are experiencing. Exercises such as counting or interpreting patterns are often used to calm negative emotions.

Find a brain bank.

We all seem know that one person who confidently and level-headedly makes all the right decisions and can look at things from a completely different perspective. Channel him or her, and ask yourself: “What would they do?”

Stop for a moment, and envision yourself behaving your best self.

Visualizing good behaviour can be the key to aiding in actually living out that behaviour.

Always learn from others.

Accept the opinions, perspectives, and emotions of those who surround you and listen well. You may know a lot, but nobody knows everything, so make sure you’re not acting like you do.

Reframe your mind.

Choosing to look for the positives in situations and people can be the key to your own flourishing mindset.

Become aware of your facial expressions.

The expressions you give a person makes a huge impression on how they interpret what you are saying.

3. Social Awareness

: Social awareness is the ability to understand and show empathy to others (noticing others’ emotions).

Remain present with people.

If you find your thoughts constantly whirring to the next thing on your to-do list, train your brain to pause when those anxious thoughts arise, and to focus on the task or person at hand.

Greet people by name.

This simple practice of addressing everyone you encounter by their name will not only help you to remember names, but will profess an attitude of genuine care for the person you are interacting with.

Prepare some ice-breakers.

Questions such as “how is your week going?” or “What’s been keeping you busy outside of work?” are natural conversation starters beyond the typical “how are you?” that will ease both you and your co-worker into a comfortable conversation. Try not to let a looming list of points to cover interrupt this time of slightly more personal, get-to-know-you conversation.

Clear away the clutter.

Commit to focusing on one task at a time and giving it your undivided attention. Multi-tasking too much will result in mediocre outcomes, so push away the urge to do a million things at once.

Do daily check-ins.

At work, check in with each teammate for 2-5 mins before leaving the office. Ensure in this check-in that everyone is feeling good about getting home at a reasonable time.

Lead by example.

Don’t just tell your employees to prioritize their families and leave work by 5pm when possible-- make sure you are doing the same! And take time to go for walks, take breathers, and organize your own thoughts. Your own actions have a domino affect on the people who surround you, so be mindful and lead by example.

Know when to delegate.

Don’t fall into the trap of taking on too much. You may be extraordinary at what you do, but you need breaks too! Share tasks and projects evenly with your crew. There should never be one person constantly working over 100%.

Listen, listen, listen!

Being a good listener is one of the most important qualities for a high EQ. Give people your full attention, make eye contact, and be prepared to make changes based on your team’s feedback and concerns.

4. Relationship Management

: Relationship management is the ability to handle other people’s emotions.

Remain open and curious.

Share some information about yourself first, and then ask your co-worker some meaningful questions. You might be surprised how much a room can shift and become much lighter when you open up and share something genuine about yourself. Engaging openly and naturally with your coworkers will result in more work life joy for you and your team.

Maintain approachability.

Each of us has likely experienced an authoritative figure who has intimidated us or has made us feel that we can’t approach them with a question or comment. Think about some of these figures in your own life. What about their demeanor, tone, and/or word choice gave you the impression that they were unapproachable? Is there any chance you are exercising some of these qualities as a leader without even being aware of it? Now, think about the more approachable leaders in your own life. How can you model after these people to ensure you’re engaging with the appropriate attitude towards your staff?

Explain the reasoning for any big decisions you make.

Refrain from implementing new systems or making big changes without first explaining your reasoning and offering room for questions. This communication is important for building trust in a team environment.

Prioritize the little things.

In the office, think about the small things that would make a difference to team members, such as rewarding excellent achievements by giving a movie pass or gift card to teammates, investing in that slightly-more-expensive (but waaay tastier) brand of coffee in the office, or sprucing up the staff lounge.

Look out for when you may need to communicate your intention.

If something you said was taken the wrong way, and the impact was not what you expected, communicate your intention. Refrain from simply avoiding confrontation, and check in on the feelings of the other person. Communicating and rephrasing something that didn’t come out exactly as planned will help build stronger relationships.

Organize feedback sessions.

As mentioned in one of our past articles on EQ, our team organizes one on one “feedback discussion times” with the president of LeadManaging, Darren Henry. This allows our team to have an open discussion on any outstanding items and what is working well and what may not be working so well. If there isn’t anything noteworthy to bring into the meeting, the time is open for casual conversation—which usually leads to some specific and valuable discussion points.

Now that you are able to label some of these behaviours and thought processes effectively, you can become more aware of how they can shape your work life, and allow you to be a successful and valued leader.

Dayna Voisin