The Good News about Emotional Intelligence


Whether you are an experienced leader or a new one, Emotional intelligence (EQ)is invaluable. It’s the ability to understand others’ needs, feelings, and behaviours and engage them where they are, all while managing and communicating your own. While Intellectual Intelligence(IQ) focuses on cognitive abilities, EQ focuses on your ability to relate to others.

We as leaders and employees have traditionally operated in a top-down hierarchy that values intellect, knowledge, and data. While all of those are still important, it is EQ that is being repeatedly touted as the top skill for great leadership and staying agile in a world where change happens quickly and leadership models are flattening.

How to grow your EQ.

The really short answer is to create time to reflect. David Peterson of Google, created this great reflection calendar, download it here and experiment with reflecting with intention and action.

The longer answer involves doing the work. Here is an incomplete, but important list of ways that you can build your emotional intelligence and become a better leader (and I would argue — person).

  1. Notice your emotions. Start to pay attention to what gets you upset. For example, you get an email that makes you want to implode. What was the trigger? How would you typically respond? How would you like to respond?
  2. Practice deep listening. Listen to understand, not simply respond.
  3. Practice the pause. It sounds simple, but it takes practice, lots of practice. Take a pause before responding to a question, an email, a driver who cut you off. In that pause, take a breath and ask yourself what’s the best possible outcome and how can I achieve it.
  4. Practice empathy. Empathy is a skill set. You can learn it. A great exercise I regularly use with clients was developed by Peter Hawkins called Wide Angle Empathy. Challenge yourself to have empathy for everyone in a situation. Think of a situation personally, or in the news. Imagine, or try to understand the perspective of every person in the example. What brought them to this point? What is happening in their lives? What is their story? What is the positive outcome that they are trying to achieve?
  5. Adopt a growth mindset and be curious. Embrace the concept that change is inevitable and explore what’s possible. What can you learn from each situation?

This list skims the surface of learning emotional intelligence, but knowing that you can develop the tools needed to thrive as a leader and ‘future fit’ your skill set is key.