“Anybody can become angry, that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody’s power; that is not easy.“



Aristotle lived in 3,000 B.C., approximately 5,000 years before the term Emotional Intelligence was coined by psychologists John Mayor and Peter Salovey in 1990, yet this quote above accurately defines in practical terms what it means to act with emotional intelligence or EQ.

In the last 30 years, EQ has become a more and more commonplace term and valued skillset n organization; at the same time, EQ and what it means feels opaque and hard to speak about simply and tangibly.  Often, we talk about EQ when we encounter someone who is lacking in emotional intelligence, whether they lack awareness of their impact on others or they lack skills in empathizing and relating to others.  What we often fail to capture colloquially is the full breadth of what it means to be emotionally intelligent.

Our mission in creating a leadership curriculum at Leading for Good is to make Emotional Intelligence more approachable for professionals at all levels in organizations, and also pull together several of best leadership resources and helpful tools from our coaching and leadership development backgrounds, which apply to Emotional Intelligence in leadership.    

Because emotional intelligence (or EQ for short) is so foundational to so many critical skills professionally and personally, from how one relates to others, to how one manages anger, to how one tolerates uncertainty or stress, it is not so easy to differentiate where EQ starts and ends.  There are many definitions out there on what EQ is, but one that I particularly like comes from the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. 

“EQ is the ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.”

In my own words, I would define EQ in following way.

“EQ is about being in tune with and accepting your personal range of emotions, and also tapping (while also taming) your emotional experience to achieve your potential and positively connect with others professionally and personally.”

The slant of emotional intelligence when applied to leadership shifts to not just getting along with others but more to being a beacon of hope, inspiration and positive change for others.   With a common definition of EQ, it’s important to also explain that there are interconnected behavioral competencies that make up emotional intelligence for leadership.  Below is a definition of these four competencies as well as a helpful starter resource for each respective skillset.


 EQ for Leadership Competencies

1.) Self Awareness – Knowing and being aware of one’s emotional patterns and unique personhood and traits in different ways.    

Resource: Mood Meter – Use this app to identify your emotional state and also get familiar with range of common 100 nuanced emotions that vary in energetic intensity and degree of positivity.  This tool, designed by Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, is available on mobile devices for free.

2.) Self Mastery – Actively managing one’s thoughts and behaviors.  Self mastery is akin to the ego that oversees the id to achieve higher level goals beyond one’s survival and self-interest. Effective self mastery is about training our minds to have more productive patterns of thought as it relates to ourselves, others and our situations.

 Resource: S-T-O-P is just one of many resources and tools we talk about to slow ourselves down and respond with choice and intention for longer term goals and relationships. This one is quite simple and easy to remember so it is included here.

3.) Relating to Others –Empathizing, and forging positive professional connections and relationships with others.

Brene Brown speaks on the distinction between empathy and sympathy in this video. This short and entertaining piece gives you further insight on what it means to feel with others and practice relating more effectively.  (get link)


4.) Inspiring Others – Ability to positively influence a team, group or organization based on vision and an optimistic mindset, even in the face of challenges and change.

Here is a link to Gallup’s research on what followers most value from leaders.  Just knowing that people look to leaders for trust, compassion, stability, and hope might shift how you choose to show up for your colleagues every day.

Final thoughts in this brief blog on Emotional Intelligence; in contrast to IQ which is thought to be fairly stable over adulthood, EQ is a set of skills that we naturally enhance with age and experience. Like fine wines, our EQ does become better with age if we are courageous and willing enough to look inward and be in touch with ourselves, and also look outward to be curious and open to learning about ourselves and also relating and connecting with others.