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If you’re seeking to be a leader within your team or company, then you have to have a high degree of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your emotions, as well as those of others.

According to TalentSmart, there are four critical competencies for emotional intelligence. Two are related to self, and the latter two are others outside of oneself:

Self-Awareness is your ability to accurately perceive your emotions and stay aware of them as they happen.

Self-Management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions to stay flexible and positively direct your behavior.

Social-Awareness is your ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and understand what is going on.

Relationship Management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions and the others’ feelings to manage interactions successfully.

Simply put, emotional intelligence is essential for how you deal with yourself, especially during stressful situations and how well you play with others in the sandbox. Even in the digital age where a lot of our lives is spent behind the computer and mobile screens, emotional intelligence is a fundamental aspect of what it means to be a human being remains indispensable for success.

People with low emotional intelligence display the following kinds of behaviors in the workplace:

  • Not able to accept critical feedback
  • Blame others
  • Passive aggressive attitude
  • Offer opinions that are not relevant or helpful to the team

I’m sure if you’ve been in business you probably have stories that abound of people that come to mind with low emotional intelligence. One example that comes to mind for me is a manager who was brought to task for having missed a significant company goal due to an error that was done by someone on his team. The manager promptly walked out of the office after a high-level meeting and stormed into the bullpen area only to demand, with colorful language, that the team member go into his office. That’s one distinct example of a person with low emotional intelligence.

One of the most destructive aspects of low emotional intelligence can be with individuals who are passive aggressive. So, while they can appear to be “passive” and working well, in reality, their minds work to see how to destroy, challenge or make things painful and inconvenient. I recall learning about a CEO of a major who was leading an organization through a very tough transition. The CEO was new, and so the team did not know what to expect. However, every time presentations were made to the board, there was silence from the senior-most executive. The other senior managers had to defend their ideas––and each other––in what became a hostile working environment because although the CEO said he was supportive, he did not show up the way he should have at meetings. The board understood something was not working and picked up on the undercurrents. And, each board meeting became like a firing squad experience for senior managers.

Today we live in a consistently chaotic world, and it’s essential for leaders and team members to understand themselves and others. If you know me, then you know I’m someone who is passionate about relationships; meaning, I’m the guy who follows verbal and body language cues. I’m the person who picks up the phone and wants to speak to you. I’m the leader who wants to meet with you face-to-face so I can understand everything and work through any ideas or challenges. I know what I think, but I also want to learn how you tick and what you think.

If you’re looking to develop in your career, be a productive team member that others can count on, and if you’re looking to become a leader within your team or organization, then it’s vital to develop your emotional intelligence.

There are ways for you to begin to focus on your emotional intelligence right now and begin to work at it consistently.

  1. Reflect on your emotions: Everything always begins within yourself. One of the principal starting places is to reflect on your own emotions, consistently, and throughout the day as stressors happen. One approach is to use the STOP method: Take a breath. Observe how you feel. Proceed. By doing this each time something comes up, you become aware of your feelings, calm things down and get balanced before proceeding.
  2. Explore the why: When you have the time for more in-depth reflection, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to understand the “why” of how you feel in stressful situations. Typically, there is a deeper reason for the emotion. Let’s take anger, for instance, in an upsetting case. The behavior is anger, but when you feel a negative emotion, what is the deeper issue? Does your anger stem from fear of not appearing to be strong and confident or in control?
  3. Respond Don’t React: Reacting is different from responding to a stressful situation. When you react, you’re not clear on your thinking. You’re shooting from the hip. Typically, you’re angry, and there’s little thought to what you’re saying or doing. When you respond, however, you’re aware of what you’re doing, and you’re deciding to say or do something. You’re entirely mindful and in control of your response to an issue.
  4. Practice Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another and to know what it means to walk in someone else’s shoes. When you empathize with others, you see any given situation from their perspective as opposed to your own. And, when you reflect on circumstances and look at things from someone else’s point of view, you may understand why they decided on something that you probably wouldn’t have done in the same way. This understanding helps your interaction with others.

Emotional intelligence is a characteristic that is essential for success in life and in business. It is a quality that has to be developed with practice. But, if you consistently––meaning daily––check your emotions and your interactions with others, you will be able to ensure that you develop a high-level of emotional intelligence, which will only work in your favor.