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Don’t be a jerk: A leader’s guide to emotional intelligence 

Managing emotions isn’t easy, but it’s essential.

Don’t be a jerk: A leader’s guide to emotional intelligence 
[Minerva Studio / Adobe Stock]

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is the capacity to be aware of and manage your emotions and to be aware of and sensitive to the emotions of others. Leaders with high EQs are like five-star quarterbacks—they stay calm in the midst of chaos and can call an audible (i.e., make changes) on the fly during challenging times.

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Leaders who flounder are often one-dimensional—they may only see a single path to success and will bulldoze people and processes to get there. As a result, their businesses or leadership positions are short-lived. On the other hand, high-EQ business leaders are better equipped to navigate difficult conversations and relationships and create a positive work environment.

Working on EQ is especially important for leaders because it’s essential to stay centered during challenging times. Leaders with high emotional intelligence set the tone and pace in an unstable business environment. They are modeling these positive attributes to the rest of the team, bringing calm from panic. This plays out as teams work through all the noise and chaos that pops up in any growing business. They’re less likely to let their emotions get in the way of making sound decisions, which means less overestimating success, blowing up in meetings, impatient snapping, and biases, and more connection and logic.

Emotions are a part of life. It would be a mistake not to inject emotion (and, dare I say, colorful language), as long as it is not demeaning or hurtful. A strong EQ will help you balance those emotions, which helps you build stronger relationships with team members, partners, and colleagues.

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We all know people with high emotional intelligence—these are the people who make us feel seen and heard. The people who inspire us. The people whose kindness, respect, and empathy not only motivate and engage us but make us feel safe enough to solve tricky problems that lead to innovation and growth.

There are many ways you can get better at this. I can’t possibly cover them all, but I can share what has worked for me.

BE AWARE OF YOUR EMOTIONS

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Leaders who understand their own feelings can better manage them in difficult situations. When you’re able to stay calm under pressure, it sets a positive example for your team. And you can’t stay calm if you don’t know what’s triggering or setting you off. Figure it out, and create a plan.

LISTEN ACTIVELY

I talk about this a lot. But leaders who truly listen to their team members are able to build better relationships and get more input on potential solutions. Active listening is also one of the best ways to show that you respect your employees and value their opinions.

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COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY

I am the king of bad analogies, but I use them to help communicate a situation or a challenge. It is helpful to frame a situation using an analogy so we can pull ourselves out of the weeds of a topic and view it from another angle.

The key here is to get people talking and sharing ideas (and a good laugh from time to time doesn’t hurt). Regardless of your communication style, leaders who can clearly communicate their vision and goals create a sense of direction for their team. And this means being aware not just of what you’re saying but how you’re saying it.

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If someone tells you that you came across in a negative way, trust them and adapt your style. Remember, someone’s impression of how you communicated is the reality, regardless of whether or not it was your intent. It will never hurt to take the time to improve your communication skills. In fact, the more you work on them, the more likely you are to get buy-in from employees when it comes to change initiatives.

BE COMPASSIONATE

Leaders with compassion understand the importance of empathy in the workplace. When employees feel like they’re being heard and understood, they’re more likely to be productive, engaged, and willing to share out-of-the-box ideas.

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DON’T MICROMANAGE 

I am going to say this again: Do not micromanage! Nothing drains your will to live more than not being trusted to do your job. Bring people along for the adventure and thrill of being in business. Leaders with high EQs know that trust is key in a healthy workplace. When employees feel like they’re given the freedom to do their job, they’re more likely to be motivated and take ownership of their work.

Managing emotions isn’t easy, but it’s essential. By working on this, you’ll be better equipped to handle difficult situations, build strong relationships, and inspire others. And I believe you’ll be happier and find more meaning across other aspects of your life as well.

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Brig Sorber is an inspiring author, sought-after speaker, and founding member of Two Men and a Truck.

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