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Throughout the years, emotional intelligence (EQ) has transitioned from a nice-to-have to a must-have leadership skill. Research continues to confirm the impact of this critical leadership skill and organizations have taken notice. According to CareerBuilder, 71% of employers surveyed value EQ over IQ when hiring, since those with high EQ are more likely to control their emotions, stay calm under pressure, and resolve conflicts effectively. This is one of the primary reasons that EQ matters more than IQ when you are climbing the career ladder.

In my previous article, I covered the first two components of emotional intelligence. This week, I wanted to explore the other two components of emotional intelligence, empathy and relationship management.


According to a recent study from DDI, empathy was ranked as the number one leadership skill, reporting that leaders who are more empathetic perform 40% higher in coaching, engaging others, and decision-making.

Empathy is defined as having the awareness of another person’s feelings, needs, and concerns. It asks you to walk in another person’s shoes. And requires that you stop, look, listen and stay open and recognize that you may not know how the other person is feeling or thinking.

There are also certain techniques that can build your empathy. IMS educator Brenda Bailey Hughes states you can jumpstart your empathetic imagination by playing a game she calls, 5 Innocent Reasons.

The game starts with a hypothetical example of a common situation. For example, let’s say your boss passes you in the hallway and says nothing to you. Now, you could assume the worst and say he must be mad at me. But in this game, it is your job to think of five alternative reasons that assume no ill-will on your boss’ part. Maybe your boss was having a bad day, their mind was elsewhere and didn’t notice me, etc.

Once you do this for a hypothetical situation, you can start playing this game with real-life situations. Let’s say, maybe one of your long-time customers cut your conversation with them short today. Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on five innocent reasons for that customer’s behavior.

This game forces you to consider alternative perspectives and reasons for another person’s actions, building greater empathy.

Tips for building greater empathy:

  • Seek out diverse opinions and perspectives.
  • Paraphrase what others say to connect, not fix.
  • Show genuine care when a crisis or challenge is affecting your team or colleagues.


The last component of emotional intelligence is relationship management. This is about creating strong, mutually beneficial relationships that achieve desired outcomes. It can also be thought of as the goal of EQ, since successfully managing interactions with others is what being emotionally intelligent is all about.  

It is critical to understand yourself first to become more aware of your thoughts, which are driving your emotions and behaviors. It is also important that you gain some awareness of how your actions are affecting others. Over time, this will help you develop greater emotional regulation.

Now that you have dealt with the internal factors of emotional intelligence, you are ready to focus on how you relate to others. Foremost, you need to develop empathy in order to better understand their feelings and why they are feeling the way they do. One of the best ways to improve your relationships with others is by examining another person’s emotional state from their point of view. This will go a long way to cultivating a deeper, more understanding relationship.

However, don’t fall for the empathy trap, where you ease the tensions in a relationship by making all the changes to yourself. Positive relationships require benefits to be experienced by everyone, along with concessions if necessary.

Relationships require many things to be successful, including giving and taking feedback well, not shying away from tough conversations, and making sure to listen actively and empathetically.

I want to emphasize the importance of taking feedback well if you want to build your relationship management skills. By asking how your emotional state and actions influence them, you are building your self-awareness. You can also ask for ways to improve yourself and your connection with them. Accept their criticisms and feedback as ways to improve your EQ and overall development.

To learn more about having difficult conversations, check out a previous article titled, DEALING WITH THE DIFFICULT PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE that discusses Dr. Rick Brinkman’s work, or listen to the podcast with Dr. Rick Brinkman, which aired on May 4. If you’re an IMS member you can attend Rick’s program for IMS on November 8th, 2022.

Emotional intelligence is critical for leaders at all levels. By better understanding the components of EI, you will have greater insights into how to improve this critical leadership skill. As Daniel Goleman states in his book, by thinking that emotional intelligence means simply being ‘nice’ diminishes the importance of this skill, that when developed, can greatly enhance a leader’s ability to influence and lead in all their relationships.

If you would like to go even further on this topic you might want to listen to the IMS March podcast with Brenda Bailey-Hughes on Leading with Emotional Intelligence. And be sure to read my previous article on Why EQ Matters More Than IQ here.


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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