Emotional Intelligence 101

main.jpgThink of a few exceptionally good leaders you’ve worked with in the past. Perhaps a supervisor, colleague, or mentor. Now take a moment to consider three qualities that made them so outstanding. Were they good listeners or empathetic? How ‘bout open to new ideas or passionate about their work? Did they believe in you and your goals? No rush—I’m happy to wait while you conjure up their strong suits.

Recently I attended a training entitled “High Impact Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence” hosted by MAP for Nonprofits thanks to a scholarship from YNPN-TC.There I learned that emotional skills are most often what make exceptional leaders. The inverse is also true for ineffective leaders with weak emotional skills, which typically detract from their leadership abilities. Emotions, when poorly managed, can get in the way of achieving your goals when interacting with people.


What is emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence (or “EQ”) is being able to effectively perceive, manage, and use your emotions. It’s also the ability to effectively manage your emotional connections with those around you. While some people think emotional intelligence is not having any emotions, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Everybody has emotions, which is a good thing! They’re what allow us to connect to others and feel invested in our work, relationships, and all life pursuits. Imagine a world without joy, curiosity, hope, or gratitude. Of course, heavier emotions like aggression, insecurity, and guilt are also part of life, though thankfully few emotions last forever.

Why does emotional intelligence matter for leaders? A while back Harvard University and Rutgers University teamed up to study skills present in highly effective leaders and found they have the following levels of competencies:

  • IQ: ~10%
  • Technical knowledge: ~10%
  • EQ: ~80%

In other words, being highly intelligent and having technical knowledge are certainly important, yet it’s nearly 8x more important for leaders to be emotionally intelligent. Leaders who are smart about their emotions are transparent about what they’re feeling and encourage others to do the same. After all, who wants to work with somebody that’s highly skilled at what they do yet emotionally disengaged or hard to work with? Not me!

Now, remember those leaders you thought of earlier? I’m willing to bet they weren’t afraid of showing what was going on beneath the surface from time to time. After all, how can we expect those we work with to be energetic without sharing their highs and lows with us? As leaders we should want people to be emotionally engaged and emotionally invested—this is where the good stuff really lies.

So, go boldly and share what you’re feeling while at work. It will engage those around you and give your colleagues permission to be equally authentic. And remember, even if you cry in the office, it’s all good.

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