By Joni Lindquist

Why do some leaders thrive while others with similar levels of intelligence and technical competence do not? Cleary, technical competence and brain power matters. You must be good at what you do, whether you are an accountant, engineer, or sales person. But there is ample research suggesting that “emotional intelligence” is what separates the most successful people from the also-rans. At its core, emotional intelligence is two things: 1) managing one-self and 2) managing relationships with others in your work environment.

Inappropriate Use of Emotions

So what does it look like when someone is ineffective at managing themselves? Do you recognize yourself or others in these descriptions?

• “Dr. Jekyll and Mr./Ms. Hyde” – These people are inconsistent in their behavior and how they treat others, depending on what is happening with them. Their inability to control their emotions leads them to become the dreaded Mr./Ms. Hyde – a not so nice human being. They are clueless about how their behavior swings negatively impact their relationships with others.
• “Ready – Fire – Aim” – These leaders tend to jump to conclusions, often based on emotions rather than facts, and don’t think things through before acting. This impulsiveness leads to poor decision making, resistance to change, and undertaking the wrong actions.
• “Know It All” – Refuses to engage others in key projects, processes and decision making. These folks tend to not understand their own strengths and weaknesses. This blindness to their own weaknesses and arrogance leads to underperformance from themselves and those around them.

And what does it look like when someone struggles in managing their relationships with others?

• “All About Me” – These folks only care about themselves. They show little to no empathy to those they work around. The organization is there to serve them. No surprise, they struggle with building strong and trusting relationships.
• “Stone Cold” – Perhaps the opposite extreme from “Jekyll & Hyde”. This person is unemotional and detached. They do not engage with others in a supportive way. While they keep negative emotions out of the work place, they also show no positive, encouraging emotions either. They do not “connect” with others.

These examples show a range of emotion driven behavior that can derail one’s career. The ability to manage your own emotions and empathize with others to build strong relationships is critical to your career success. If any of the above resonates with you, perhaps you need to focus on your “emotional intelligence.”

Using Your Emotions in a Positive Manner

As our “Stone Cold” character showed, becoming robots and showing no emotion is not the answer. How can you harness your emotions in a positive way?

As with many things in life, awareness is the foundation. You must be aware of your own emotional responses and what triggers your “negative” responses to rear their ugly heads. What sorts of people or situations set you off? Your options are to change the people/situation or change your response to it. The option you can best control is to change your behavior.

But before you change, you need to increase your awareness of other’s emotions and tune in to them. Too often we can get locked into an argument or position without stepping back and putting ourselves in the other’s shoes. Tuning in to how others are feeling and being able to respond appropriately is the key. Upon recognizing your emotions and the emotions of others, positive interactions will occur when you can match your behavior to the situation.

We all know leaders who intuitively seem to know when to praise people, when to challenge them, when to use humor, and when to be serious. Not only do they have a repertoire of behavior to use, they are in tune with the others and know what will work for that particular situation. That is what you should strive for.

Can You Learn to Manage Your Emotions?

Yes. There are assessments available to test these “soft skill” areas and to receive feedback from those you work with. With this information, you can begin to focus on your specific issues. Working with an executive coach strategizing ways to change behavior can also help you make the necessary changes. Changing our behavior as adults is hard, but can be well worth the effort when it leads you to greater career success!!

For help managing your emotions and your career, schedule a meeting by clicking below, contact Joni Lindquist –, or call (913) 345-1881.

Photo credit: Anders Ljungberg / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)