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Leaders: Strong emotional intelligence (EQ) isn’t just one thing, like self-awareness, empathy, or working well under stress.

It’s about understanding the many components of EQ, your strengths and weaknesses, and working to find balance across the EQ skills.

Last week I shared an article from Forbes on empathy in leadership, and it got a lot of positive attention. It struck a chord.

Empathy IS crucial in EQ. And as with any leadership trait, any strength overused can become a weakness. This is true of empathy too.

The magic of EQ is in the balance. 

In 2021 I earned certification in the MHS EQ-i 2.0 model of EQ (graphic below). I appreciate the model’s holistic view of EQ and emphasis on balancing your EQ skills.

Strong emotional intelligence (EQ) isn't just one thing | 110 West Group | Cynthia Farrell

I’ll use myself as an example. I’m naturally high in the EQ skills that make up the Decision-Making area. However, my stress tolerance skill is lower. How does this manifest? When I’m under extreme stress, I can be paralyzed by indecision. 

I also have high self-awareness. So when I consider how to balance my EQ, I look for ways I can leverage my self-awareness in periods of high stress and recognize when it’s impacting my ability to make a decision.

That’s the balance.

The balance exists with empathy too. For example, a highly empathetic person might find it hard to be assertive if they’re overly focused on how their assertiveness might make someone else feel. Or they might struggle to make a decision for the same reason.

The balance of EQ means recognizing when you’re over-rotating on empathy, which takes self-awareness, and maintaining your empathy while leaning in to other EQ skills.

My point is that as much as I believe, 100% wholeheartedly, that empathy is crucial to leadership, I also believe–and know from experience–that the best leaders work on the entirety of their EQ, of which empathy is only one component.

I’d love to hear from you. Looking at the EQ model, what’s the EQ skill that you’d most like to build?

The MHS EQ-i 2.0 model is a powerful tool that I leverage in both executive coaching and team development. If you’re interested to build your–or your team’s–emotional intelligence, contact me.

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