Standout professionals often earn leadership roles because they know their subject matter and industry. Learning to lead, motivate and inspire others requires its own brand of expertise that is often the sum of a different skill set than that which earned the promotion. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) enables managers to finesse the realities between which they must skillfully fluctuate: the professional and the interpersonal.

EQ drives our behavior, social skills, and the daily choices we make. It helps us understand emotions, ours and others, and navigate accordingly:

  • I’m concerned for the new CMO. While it’s always hard getting acclimated, she seemed hesitant to accept help. How can I alter my approach to better support her?
  • Sarah seems uncomfortable speaking in meetings with high-level managers. How can I help her recognize her own expertise?
  • Peeyush seems ignited by the opportunity to pick the charity project for our team. How can I channel his enthusiasm into a development goal?

EQ is an abstract sensibility which enables us to absorb subtleties we notice and use them as a basis for further observation or action. Those with high EQ’s are active listeners, critical thinkers, and relatable mentors.

Emotional intelligence is a proven indicator for overall success; it fosters better work performance, healthier relationships, and sound stress management. A highly developed EQ is as fundamental a qualification for a leadership role as a high IQ is for an engineering role. Eric Hutcherson, Executive Vice President and CHRO with the National Basketball Association (NBA), reflects: “Watching a leader in tune with their EQ and thus leading authentically, is a thing of beauty.”

[Related: What Is Emotional Intelligence, and Why Everyone Needs It]

Here’s how to “tune in” to your EQ:

Name Your Emotions

Consider the power that comes from coherently describing emotional experiences. Our ability to articulately discuss our internal reality enables us to take necessary risks.

Consider these examples:

I feel frustrated because I don’t feel heard at work.

No one listens to me!

Both messages explore the same important issue. The first demonstrates ownership and reflection, while the second spews frustration. If we want our audience to hear that we’re frustrated, we can simply state that. We don’t have to demonstrate it with a message that is more likely to end a conversation than to start one. This approach is self-defeating and may leave us unheard yet again.

Recognizing, articulating, and owning our feelings has many benefits. It can yield self-awareness. It can also make an emotion less overwhelming; we underscore the temporary dimension of our emotions when we assert “I feel” rather than “I am.”

Viewing our emotions this way can also give us distance from them so that we’re not so weighed down by our feelings, and we can reflect intellectually on our triggers and patterns. It allows us to learn ourselves.

This is especially important for leaders whose judgment guides their team. Leaders need to be a role model of emotional clarity and composure, which takes practice. Hutcherson explains: “My advice to leaders is simple. Because of the position you hold and the influence you have, you have to remember that the second the words leave your mouth, it is fact.”

Own this. Shape those facts with tact and purpose.

Surround Yourself with Positivity

Negativity breeds negativity. Notice this when you’re driving. If you’re late or stressed, you’re more inclined to be impatient. But if you have a positive mindset, you’re more inclined to take your time, wait your turn, lay off the horn.

Positivity feels good and it fosters calm behavior, which leads to better interactions. People treat us well when we treat them well. Cultivate a positive mindset. Be grateful for what’s working in your life.

Take Responsibility

We are responsible for how we treat others. When someone stirs our frustration, we may fault him/her for the infraction and mistakenly assume our assessment earns us the right to take our frustration out on him/her. That’s neither true nor strategic.

Taking responsibility for our feelings involves self-awareness and self-control, both key components of emotional intelligence.

Recognizing our role in problematic social patterns and amending those, makes us function better socially.

Don’t Take it Personally

Others’ feedback doesn’t define you. Regard it as useful data, rather than a character evaluation. Don’t allow it to rent space in your head.

Absorbing feedback logically (did my efforts hit the target) rather than emotionally (do my colleagues like me) can reduce negative emotions and increase productivity and growth.

Feedback is a valuable tool. It’s a recipe for how to succeed. Use it to your advantage.

Sharpen Awareness

A constant leadership challenge involves taking stock of daily developments, re-prioritizing, redirecting, and retaining focus. Leaders have to protect their center of gravity-their connection to their team. This requires authentic relationship building.

Hutcherson notes: “Authentic leadership is an art that is seldom practiced. However, I spend a disproportionate amount of time coaching on leadership brand, communication style, authenticity and integrity above all.”

Leaders set themselves up for success when they embrace a bottom-up approach, building their culture with an awareness of their team members’ values. This way, during those chaotic times, they are well-positioned to work in a way that favors their team, as that awareness is built into the fabric of the organization.

Never Stop Working on it

It takes a lifetime to master your EQ. It’s not just about honing skills, it’s also about refining an emotional strategy for the kind of life you want to live.

Tammy Perkins is the Managing Partner and Chief People Officer of Fjuri, a marketing consultancy focused on helping clients to imagine the future of business, enhance marketing strategy and execution by tapping into big data in a more powerful way. Prior to joining Fjuri, Tammy worked with major brands and startups including Amazon, Microsoft, and Appen – leading HR and talent acquisition during periods of high growth and transformation. Find her on Twitter @FjuriGroup and LinkedIn. Tammy can also be reached at [email protected]

Originally published at


  • Tammy Perkins

    Chief People Officer

    PMI Worldwide

    Tammy is the Chief People Officer of PMI Worldwide, where she leads Human Resources for PMI’s family of brands including Stanley and Aladdin. Prior to joining PMI, Tammy worked with major brands and startups including Amazon, Microsoft, and Fjuri – leading HR and talent acquisition during periods of high growth and transformation.