“No doubt emotional intelligence is more rare than book smarts, but my experience says it is actually more important in the making of a leader. You just can’t ignore it.” – Jack Welch
Just as great leaders are made not born, so too are people with high levels of emotional intelligence. While we may be born and raised with a propensity for emotional intelligence, we can also develop and nurture the behaviours and competencies that will improve our EQ. Doing so will allow us to become more effective in our interactions with others and strategic in our work.
Let’s say that you are consistently unable to tolerate stressful situations. If you consistently exhibit behaviours, whether yelling, nail-biting, worrying, obsessing, pacing, or whatever form your stress manifests, people will alter how they communicate with you, how much they share and place trust in and rely on you. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have a “low” EQ. You could quite possibly have a high EQ, and stress tolerance is simply your Achilles heel.
Even emotional “strengths” can become vulnerabilities. For instance, you could be very empathetic. This is an admirable quality, but if you overplay it or over-identify with this element, you can become so empathetic that you are reluctant to move to action and get things done in a timely manner. If you are a leader, for instance, you may have a very difficult time delivering a hard message. That would be a very uncomfortable place for you, so you may shy away from it.
In either case, you can come to a place where you are aware of your strengths and vulnerabilities and change the way you approach people and situations. During a very stressful time, for instance, you might stop and reflect:
- What is so stressful?
- What am I afraid of?
- What is getting in my way?
- What do I need right now?
- How am I showing up now, and how will this impact my ability to lead or interact with others in the future?
- What can I do to relieve stress? What else is possible?
This is all about becoming aware, observing yourself and yourself with others, and making the conscious decision to use your emotions strategically in your interactions. The reasoning behind being strategic in your interactions with others is not about manipulation but coming from a place where you can engage with others and increase your credibility. People will know who you are and feel like they can connect with you.
Our capacity for emotional intelligence is a major factor in our ability to succeed; it is also dynamic. We can change it for the better by becoming aware and acting with intention.