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  • Writer's pictureCindy Saunders | Leaders Rise

Working hard but stalling out? 3 Emotional Intelligence skills to turn your leadership around.

Updated: Apr 2, 2021

Emotional intelligence, simply stated is:

  • the awareness to notice that you are feeling… something;

  • the ability to identify the feeling and name it;

  • the capacity to understand the “under-the-hood” reasons why you are feeling it;

  • the willingness to use that information to discover your path to a best-case outcome;

  • the courage to apply all of this understanding to your situation.

Stated differently: The capacity to know, understand, and respond to emotions, being aware of how your words affect others, and your ability to overcome stress at the moment, is what is known as emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence is a way of recognizing, understanding, and choosing how we think, feel, and act. It shapes our interactions with others and our understanding of ourselves. It defines how and what we learn; it allows us to set priorities; it determines the majority of our daily actions. Research suggests it is responsible for as much as 80% of the “success” in our lives. J. Freedman

There are several elements to emotional intelligence; we will take a look at three: Self-regulation, empathy and compassion, and communication.


Self-regulation, or discipline, involves the ability to control or redirect your disruptive emotions and adapt to changing circumstances to keep your team moving in the right direction.

As a leader, you can't afford to panic when things get a bit too stressful. When you can manage your feelings, you are unlikely to rush headlong into decisions or let anger take over your behavior.

To be an effective leader, you must be able to keep your emotions in check. Being calm is contagious.

When you can learn to stay calm and positive, you are able to think and communicate more clearly. Having high emotional intelligence means that you can manage your emotions and stay in control effectively.

“Most people make mistakes around emotional intelligence because they don’t understand what’s going on with other people. They don’t even necessarily understand what’s going on with themselves.” Travis Bradberry

In assessments of more than 2 million workers, TalentSmart researchers found that “just 36 percent of people are able to accurately identify their emotions as they happen,” says Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

In order to self-regulate, you need to understand where you are starting from. There are several emotional intelligence self-assessments designed to identify the scope of your emotional intelligence. Additionally, a 360-degree feedback assessment can also be very helpful in pinpointing areas. The 360 assessment, which uses input from supervisors, colleagues, and subordinates, is always eye-opening.

Empathy and Compassion

Empathy is your ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes so you can understand how they feel and react appropriately to the situation. When you have empathy, your capacity to feel compassion is higher. The emotions that you feel in response to struggle or suffering are what motivates a desire in you to help. The more you can relate to those around you, the better you will come to understand what motivates and upsets them.

“Companies with higher empathy are shown to increase in value and generate up to 50% more earnings.” — 2016 Global Empathy Index, compiled by The Empathy Business, was originally published in the Harvard Business Review.

“Empathy is the essential building block for compassion. We have to sense what another person is going through, what they're feeling, in order to spark compassion in us. -Daniel Goleman

We sometimes believe that being a good leader involves being aggressive, abrasive; doing whatever it takes to get the job done. Yet, we know that people with empathy create safe environments for people to feel heard or valued. This capacity to be empathetic brings a sense of comfort to others-- which creates trust.

When leaders create a foundation of trust in their teams, productivity is high, and communication is strong. When you use emotional intelligence to understand your employees, you have a strong advantage in strategically positioning your team. You not only know what needs to be accomplished, you know the best way for your team to succeed.

This video by Simon Sinek expresses the clear advantage of developing strong empathy and compassion in the workplace.

Effective Communication

Effective communication is crucial when it comes to being an effective leader. Studies show that communication is 7% percent of the words you say and 93% tone and body language.

Misunderstandings and lack of communication are usually the basis of problems between people.

Failing to communicate effectively at work leads to frustration, confusion, and bitterness among employees. When you are competent at communicating, you can eliminate obstacles and encourage stronger relationships within your company.

People who demonstrate high emotional intelligence can effectively listen to others and convey their own thoughts and feelings appropriately. Good communicators listen well to others and make sure that they understand what is being said. This allows them to register and act upon emotional cues so they can respond appropriately.

“It’s really critical for somebody who wants to excel as a manager and leader that they look at developing these skills. And by the way, they can be learned. Annie McKee

Annie McKee is a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate school of education who teaches leadership and emotional intelligence and is co-author of Becoming a Resonant Leader (Harvard Business Review Press, 2008).


If you are interested in what an EQ assessment might involve, here are three free resources that give you a peek at the types of questions involved.

Thanks for reading! If you would like to add emotional intelligence to your leadership development plan, reach out at!


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