Most Important Quality for Being a Leader

We all know a star performer at work; he or she’s that person who closes the accounts the fastest, relates best to the customer or is the manager that has the respect of all the staff. We think of these `workplace celebrities’ as more talented, more skilled, or better socially than us – but the truth is far more surprising.

Everyone wants to excel at his or her job. Excellence means raises, promotions, the esteem of colleagues and most importantly, self-satisfaction. But if being good at your job is the only criteria for being a star performer, then why is it that there are only a few “stars” in even the most talented organizations? Perhaps it is time to rethink what it really means to be a star in your workplace.

The Truth Exposed

Research has proven that star performers are no smarter, more social or naturally superior to their colleagues in any way. Star performers simply do more with what they have – effective skill management, good on-the-job habits and emotional intelligence. Everyone knows about the importance of hard work and effectiveness, but the importance of emotional intelligence has been largely overlooked until now.

Emotions and intelligence are not the same thing!” you may be saying to yourself. We have been taught to think about I.Q. being solely abstract intelligence (verbal and logical) and/or concrete intelligence (spatial and perceptive). The concept of emotional intelligence wasn’t truly respected until the early 1990s.

Emotional intelligence is known by a lot of terms, such as “soft skills,” “interpersonal skills,” “social intelligence” or “good people skills.” Emotional intelligence, essentially, is the practical way that we get along in the world; the way we relate to and understand others and ourselves. This intelligence is often referred to as EQ (emotional quotient), much like the way IQ (intelligence quotient) is to “traditional” intelligence.

There are 5 main elements of emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-Awareness: The talent of gauging and understanding your own emotions is very important to high EQ – by understanding yourself, you also understand others. Self-awareness ultimately allows us insight into why people act the way that they do.
  2. Management of Emotions: Managing and controlling your emotional state is the second most important ability to EQ. If you want to get along in your workplace, controlling your emotions successfully is a key both to getting along well with others and remaining effective under stress.
  3. Self-Motivation: This skill allows you to focus and control your emotions to achieve ends, whether it is success at work or creating strong relationships with others. Motivated workers use their emotions and needs to spur themselves to seize initiative and to fuel their drive to succeed.
  4. Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand the emotions of others, to “walk a mile in their shoes,” and is at the core of what we often call good `interpersonal skills’.”
  5. Social Skills: We all know these type of people; the popular kids in school, the guy that everyone likes or someone that everyone else wishes they were. Strong social skills are vital to networking and establishing effective relationships with others.

Even though IQ and EQ are two separate but equal intelligences, they are intimately tied together as well. Think of EQ as the gas that fuels the IQ’s car. The IQ represents the body of ideas and knowledge, while EQ provides it with creativity and innovation. While the IQ reasons and deciphers, the EQ motivates and leads the way to success. In fact, some research has found that emotional intelligence can contribute to up to 80% of our success on the job, while only 20% is attributable to IQ. In short, it is not what you know, it is how you work with who you know and what you have.

High emotional intelligence is not only a benefit to you as an individual; there are many perks for your workplace as well. Teams with collectively high EQ’s work better and more effectively together, as they are sensitive to one another’s needs and emotions. EQ is tied with motivation, thus high EQ teams are more motivated, effective and confident in their decisions. Workers with high EQ’s relate to customers better and react to workplace challenge with flexibility and creativity. Finally, managers with high EQ’s are high quality leaders, able to respond to the needs of their staff competently and sensitively.

Improve Your EQ and Learn to Shine

If you feel that your EQ is less than stellar, don’t worry; there is hope. Unlike IQ, emotional intelligence is not set in youth, and unlike emotions, EQ is a learned set of skills. Research indicates that people in their 40s and 50s have higher EQ scores than young adults – in a way, another term for emotional intelligence could be maturity. By working with, refining and developing your emotional habits over time, you will raise your EQ.

Try some of these strategies developed by experts to increase your “heart smarts” for success in the workplace:

Get to Know Yourself Better

As the saying goes, you can’t love anyone until you love yourself – in the same way, you cannot raise your emotional intelligence with others until you understand your own emotions better. Getting in touch with your own emotions and understanding yourself better is the first step in developing your EQ. Turn your external lens inward; try asking yourself questions, writing, or meditating. Learning more about yourself and the way you react to others can foster higher levels of empathy and emotion management, two core attributes of high EQ.

Get Optimistic

While not necessarily part of emotional intelligence, optimism promotes good EQ habits and is a fantastic tool for raising your emotional quotient. Pessimism inherently sees problems as being pervasive and permanent, while optimism fuels motivation, effective stress coping, self-esteem and facilitates emotional stability. Your positive outlook also will reflect back to your co-workers, helping increase their confidence in turn.

Internalize Success and Externalize Failure

Similar to optimism, confidence is a very empowering part of our success and performance and the things we keep inside directly affect our confidence. We internalize the things that we focus on, so dwelling on failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, try to internalize your successes while keeping your shortcomings at arm’s length. When this becomes a natural part of your thinking, you will find that you are more confident, able to readily meet challenges and succeed – confident is as confidence does.

Get Going!

Once you understand and can control the degree of emotions you feel, use your understanding to motivate yourself. Learn which “bones” you can wave in order to get results – are you motivated by personal growth, feeling good about yourself, or being able to go home having nothing to do? Appeal to these more “primal” urges and you will find that it is easier to remain motivated and effective on the job.

Take Control

Initiative is another reflection of high EQ and critical for workplace success as well. Practice your leadership skills by heading up a project or making a presentation when an opportunity arises. Express interest in taking additional responsibility or learning new skills to your manager. Increasing your leadership ability and on-the-job competency not only broadens your skill base, it also brings you into the limelight with leaders and fellow workers alike.

Manage Your Relationships

The old adage, “It is not what you know, it’s who you know” still rings true, but in the workplace it’s a question of “It’s not who you know, it’s how you know them.” Relationships are the beating heart of a workplace and a team; how they work with you will affect the way you work. Ask yourself what could you do to build better, more personable relationships with your co-workers. Don’t think this is brown-nosing; building earnest workplace relationships is both of benefit to you and all those around you, a sure-fire way to better your workplace reputation and increase your team’s efficiency.


In the end, there are no guarantees that increasing your emotional intelligence will make you a star performer – but it will help. Sometimes a fresh start or seeking out a new career or workplace may be the best option for a fresh start with your “new self” to open up new doors of personal and professional growth. Make an effort not only to work better, but also to work better with others at your job, and you have a formula for success. By practicing these methods of EQ, you can create stronger relationships, finally get the recognition you deserve and learn to be a shining example to everyone else of what a star was really meant to be.

Source: United Healthcare.

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