How to Build Emotional Intelligence

Transformational Leadership Series

By Eric Olsen
How to Build Emotional Intelligence

IQ vs. EQ and how that affects you

Throughout childhood teachers are quick to pick out students who are “high performers” and have a high IQ. With society giving such a larger emphasis on IQ, it is inferred that only those who have a high IQ will be successful financially as they continue through life and build their careers. However, society has shown that that is simply not the case.

IQ tests are very good at measuring specific mental aspects, namely logic, abstract reasoning, learning ability, and working-memory capacity. However, the test fails to efficiently measure other important mental faculties such as making good judgements in real-life situations. This is because the IQ test fails to account for factors such as a person’s ability to critically weigh information or whether an individual can overcome their cognitive biases. Therefore, a person’s ability to perform cannot be based upon their IQ alone.

What is EQ?

EQ or emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize manage and evaluate your emotions, emotions of those around you and those of groups of people. More simply put it is the ability to read people and to know how to address them or a situation.

Studies conducted on EQ has shown that those with higher levels have improved job performance, leadership skills, and mental health. For example, the modern father of emotional intelligence, psychologist Daniel Goleman found that EQ accounted for up to 67% of the abilities deemed necessary for superior performance in leaders and that it mattered twice as much as technical expertise or IQ .

While EQ is generally said to include five skills, this article will focus on three of them namely, emotional awareness, the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people.

Emotional Awareness

Emotional awareness is your ability to recognize the emotions of yourself and others and how they are affecting a situation, and then removing them if they would impair judgement. Let’s say that we have two employees who are coming home from a long day of work where their boss yelled at them, causing them to be frustrated. Employee 1 is emotionally aware and Employee 2 is not. When they get home, their kids do something that triggers them and they both began to feel their emotions boil. Employee 1, being emotionally aware, would recognize that they are getting frustrated due to their bad day at work, and that there is no reason to become frustrated at their child for what they did. Employee 1 would choose to let it go.

Employee 2 on the other hand would take out their frustration on the child, and anyone that is around them, regardless of whether they were the cause of any frustration or not, which would damage their relationship.

Harnessing Emotions

Being able to take the emotions of others and utilize them to solve a problem is an acquired skill. Even once you have the emotions being directed at the problem, you need to be able to maintain that direction, without losing any energy.

Jill is the senior vice president at a large software company that has held the dominant market share for many years. Recently, they lost a considerable portion of their market share to several startup companies and are acutely aware that if they do not find a way to remain competitive, that there will need to be layoffs, which would demoralize her employees. To solve this problem, Jill calls a leadership retreat with all the VPs, directors and managers under her. At the retreat, she recounts to her management teams, the humble beginnings of the company and talks about the impact that they have had over the years for their clients. As she gets their energy levels higher, she addresses the issue they have at hand with having recently lost market share, and challenges them to then breakout into teams, and brainstorm solutions, while their energy levels are high. This allows Jill to harness her teams emotions to aid in finding a solution for the problem at hand.

Managing Emotions

The ability to manage emotions, includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people. Let’s look at an example of this: Carlisle is a manager over a remote team at a consulting firm. On a conference call, he finds out that one of his employees, Jared, has failed to do his part of a data analysis report for a presentation that they are giving to a very important client that week. This is not the first time that this has happened, and the analytics report was a key part of the presentation.

When questioned about why he was unable to generate the report, Jared begins to create excuses and unfairly throws the blame back on the team and on Carlisle. Claiming that they were to blame, when he clearly had the necessary resources, capacity and time to create it. Jared then starts to argue with the other members on the call and tries to paint himself as a victim. Carlisle begins to feel his emotions rise and yells “No Jared!” on the call. Emotions are high for everyone, Carlisle recognizing that, knows that any additional discussion will only escalate the situation. Being emotionally aware, Carlisle suggests that they table any further discussion until everyone has calmed down. Because Carlisle successfully managed his emotions, he maintained his role as a leader while guiding the team through the situation. The development of these three cores of emotional intelligence form an essential building block for individuals who are trying to become a transformational leader.

I - Mind Tools. “Emotional Intelligence: Developing Strong "People Skills".” Develop your soft skills at MindTools.Com,
II - “Emotional intelligence.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Oct. 2017,
III - Goleman, D. (1998). Working With Emotional Intelligence. New York, NY. Bantum Books.
IV - Psychology Today. “Emotional Intelligence.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers,