Charles Good Institute for Management Studies

Daniel Goleman first popularized the term emotional intelligence (EQ) and established its importance to effective leadership. In his 1998 HBR article, “What Makes a Great Leader”, he stated that “the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but… they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. My research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.” So, now that we have an answer to why EQ matters more than IQ. The next question is, how can we increase our EQ? 

Even though your IQ is largely determined by genetic factors, your EQ can be improved with practice. According to IMS educator Brenda Bailey Hughes, emotional intelligence is composed of four components, all of which can be improved through practice. In this week’s article, I will unpack the first two components, self-awareness and self-regulation. Next week’s article will focus on the other two components, empathy and relationship management.


Although we acknowledge the value of having self-awareness, we often struggle to define what it actually means. Dr. Tasha Eurich, self-awareness expert and best-selling author of Insight: The Surprising Truth About How Others See Us, How We See Ourselves, and Why the Answers Matter More Than We Think, discovered even though most of us believe we are self-aware, only 10-15% of us actually are.

Self-awareness has many definitions. Some define it as understanding why you feel and behave in a certain way. Others view it as your ability to focus on yourself and your actions, and whether they align with your internal standards. Not being able to reconcile the conflicting definitions of self-awareness led Dr. Eurich to acknowledge there are two types. Internal self-awareness is how we see our own values, thoughts, and emotions fit into our environment. And external self-awareness relates to our understanding how other people view us.

Her research has found there is virtually no relationship between these two types. In other words, being high in one type of self-awareness has no bearing on the other type. However, we do know that effective leaders are strong in both types of self-awareness.

In the past, it was commonly thought that introspection improves self-awareness. And it does if you’re doing it correctly. The problem is most of us are not doing it correctly due to the type of questions we are asking ourselves. ‘Why’ questions are the commonly asked questions when we are trying to understand the emotions of ourselves and others. However, according to Dr. Eurich, this type of question is ineffective because we are not able to access many of our unconscious thoughts, feelings, and motives. Rather, we default to inventing answers that feel true but are often wrong. And then we compound this error with our overconfidence bias. Once we have identified an insight or reason why something occurred, we rarely question the validity or value or bring to mind contradictory evidence.

‘What’ questions are better introspective question to ask ourselves. This type of question helps us to stay more objective and future-focused. For example, instead of asking yourself, “Why you feel so bad?” Ask yourself, “What are the situations that make you feel bad, and what do they have in common?” This allows you to problem-solve moving forward instead of ruminating on past patterns.

Leaders should be focused not only on asking the right type of questions, but also seeking candid feedback on a frequent basis.


Do you know your emotional triggers? What are the situations or times when you feel yourself being pulled by your emotions?

Over the course of your childhood, you learn how to tolerate uncomfortable feelings instead of having an emotional outburst. As you become an adult, you become more emotionally mature and are able to recognize and control your impulses before your uncomfortable feelings occur.

At its core, self-regulation is your ability to face emotional, physical and mental threats with patience and thoughtfulness. In short, it is your ability to manage your impulses.

First, you need to understand what are your emotional triggers. Everyone has situations or individuals that trigger certain negative emotions. The better you understand what causes you to feel frustration, anger, or anxiety, the better you are able to self-regulate your emotions at those critical times.

Once you have identified what your ‘hot buttons’ are, you then you need to find techniques that will allow you to pause before reacting in those situations. It could be as simple as pausing and taking a deep breath.

Leaders who develop this ability to recognize and identify their negative feelings and then put into practice certain techniques, such as pausing and breathing, to avoid those knee-jerk reactions are going to be more successful in the long run as they continually grow their emotional awareness.

Now that we have explored why EQ matters more than IQ I would encourage you to continue with your journey by checking out a recent article on Building Real Time Resilience, where I go over other techniques for calm and focus, along with providing combatting unproductive or destructive beliefs and emotions. You may also want to view our podcast on Building Your Emotional Intelligence with Brenda Bailey Hughes.


Charles Good is the president of The Institute for Management Studies, which provides transformational learning experiences that drive behavioral change and develop exceptional leaders. Charles is an innovative and resourceful leader who specializes in bringing people together to develop creative organizational and talent strategies that enable business results. His areas of expertise include assessing organizational skill gaps and leading the design, creation and delivery of high impact, innovative learning solutions that achieve business goals.

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