Leading a team, or an organization is never easy. At one point or another, we are all prone to irrational thinking and behaviour that get the best of us, and in turn hurt our professional relationships. Ideally people with Emotional Intelligence tend to sway in a different tangent. But they were never like that from the word go, they worked and trained themselves because they knew, their success depended on it.

One CEO I admire Ursula Burns, is a classic example. Burns succeeded former CEO Anne Mulcahy in the first woman to woman CEO leadership transfer in Fortune 500 history. She also helped guide Xerox through near bankruptcy. Her legacy would eventually be to engineer and drive the reinvention of the corporation from a manufacturing business to something new and unique. With that said, emotional intelligence did not come easy to Ursula.

“Earlier in her career she didn’t have a good poker face–all her emotions were visible. That’s a big thing for a CEO, because everybody is looking at you. You can destroy someone by showing your emotions, particularly negative ones. It just shuts people down. … As chief executive, you have to consciously set the right tone, and Ursula worked to develop that.”But, as time passed, Burns began to get it. In doing so, she would emerge as a self-confident   leader who put the company’s interests first. And, the company and its culture reaped the rewards.

I remember one time during the interview process, I met a lady who was very eager to join our team. As the interview progressed, I realized that not only was she stretching the truth, further than intended, but that she was also overselling herself, to the point she told us that she was involved in former President Obama’s Campaign , back in the US. This of course was a blatant lie, and my face failed to hide my emotions well. What I was telling her with my face, was that I disapprove, and she in turn interpreted my visible emotions as a sign of distaste and apathy towards her, and she began to shut down in the interview. I never noticed this, and of course we did not hire her. We managed to build a team that I was leading, however over time I noticed that my team tended to shy away from giving their opinions in meetings whenever I was leading the meetings, but whenever my second in command would do it, they were vibrant and open, only to discover that I needed to learn how to control my face, because it was costing me.

Elon Musk, a man of extraordinary genius, and vision, also plays the emotional intelligence game very well, and is always media – ready, with a charming and articulate personality. In response to a recent claim that Tesla had incurred 30% more employee injuries than the industry standard, Musk committed to personal accountability in an email to employees. In it, he indicates that it breaks his heart whenever an employee is injured while building cars and that he sincerely cares for their well-being and safety.  He then asked to be notified directly about every injury, meet with the injured employees personally, then attempt to do their tasks, so he can see what needs to be fixed. 

“This is what all managers at Tesla should do as a matter of course. At Tesla, we lead from the front line, not from some safe and comfortable ivory tower. Managers must always put their team’s safety above their own.” 

While it’s true that sternness and even greed often drive performance and profits, that doesn’t always have to be the approach. Emotional intelligence characterizes the most admirable of human organizations.

So how E.I. ready are you? Here is how to know for sure.

You have a robust emotional vocabulary.

All people experience emotions, but it is a select few who can accurately identify them as they occur. research shows that only 36 percent of people can do this, which is problematic because unlabeled emotions often go misunderstood, which leads to irrational choices and counterproductive actions.

You embrace change.

Emotionally intelligent people are flexible and are constantly adapting. They know that fear of change is paralyzing and a major threat to their success and happiness. They look for change that is lurking just around the corner, and they form a plan of action should these changes occur.

You know your strengths and weaknesses.

Emotionally intelligent people don’t just understand emotions; they know what they’re good at and what they’re terrible at. They also know who pushes their buttons and the environments (both situations and people) that enable them to succeed. Having a high EQ means you know your strengths and how to lean into and use them to your full advantage while keeping your weaknesses from holding you back.

You’re a good judge of character.

Much of emotional intelligence comes down to social awareness; the ability to read other people, know what they’re about, and understand what they’re going through. Over time, this skill makes you an exceptional judge of character. People are no mystery to you. You know what they’re all about and understand their motivations, even those that lie hidden beneath the surface.

You are difficult to offend.

If you have a firm grasp of who you are, it’s difficult for someone to say or do something that gets your goat. Emotionally intelligent people are self-confident and open-minded, which creates a pretty thick skin. You may even poke fun at yourself or let other people make jokes about you because you are able to mentally draw the line between humor and degradation.

You know how to say no (to yourself and others).

Emotional intelligence means knowing how to exert self-control. You delay gratification and avoid impulsive action. Saying no is a major self-control challenge for many people, but “No” is a powerful word that you should unafraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, emotionally intelligent people avoid phrases such as “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.

You let go of mistakes.

Emotionally intelligent people distance themselves from their mistakes, but do so without forgetting them. By keeping their mistakes at a safe distance, yet still handy enough to refer to, they are able to adapt and adjust for future success. It takes refined self-awareness to walk this tightrope between dwelling and remembering. Dwelling too long on your mistakes makes you anxious and gun shy, while forgetting about them completely makes you bound to repeat them. The key to balance lies in your ability to transform failures into nuggets of improvement. This creates the tendency to get right back up every time you fall down.

You give and expect nothing in return.

When someone gives you something spontaneously, without expecting anything in return, this leaves a powerful impression. For example, you might have an interesting conversation with someone about a book, and when you see them again a month later, you show up with the book in hand. Emotionally intelligent people build strong relationships because they are constantly thinking about others.

You neutralize toxic people.

Dealing with difficult people is frustrating and exhausting for most. But high-EQ individuals control their interactions with toxic people by keeping their feelings in check. When they need to confront a toxic person, they approach the situation rationally. They identify their own emotions and don’t allow anger or frustration to fuel the chaos. They also consider the difficult person’s standpoint and are able to find solutions and common ground. Even when things completely derail, emotionally intelligent people are able to take the toxic person with a grain of salt to avoid letting him or her bring them down.

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