Balancing Your Head with Your Heart, and the Power of EQ

In last week’s blog, we explored the topic of caring by highlighting the 9 core leadership behaviors that exude genuine care for your people. This week, we are going to continue to build on this notion of caring, and by exploring how to strengthen EQ muscles and become more attuned to leading with both your head and your heart. 

Leaders tend to be focused on intellectual concepts, using their brains to solve problems and make decisions. But the brain isn’t the only place in the body where thinking happens. Thinking also happens in the heart, and you must be able to leverage both to tap into your EQ muscles.

When it comes to enhancing your leadership, there are numerous courses, books, workshops, and other resources that can lead you down a straightforward path toward improvement. So-called “hard skills” that lead to measurable outcomes can be learned and applied. All it takes is time, effort, and commitment. 

Unfortunately, there is no “silver bullet” that can lead you to greater emotional intelligence, and that’s because EQ is far from being a “hard skill.” It is a combination of various “soft skills” such as self-awareness, empathy, and sociability, which makes it difficult to comprehend for some leaders who are accustomed to learning new skills in a systematic manner. Emotional intelligence is nurtured by being present, requires deep reflection, the power of pausing, active listening and thinking before reacting from moment-to-moment as we navigate through our busy lives.  

Leadership Values

To me, successful and impactful leadership is not possible without connecting with a core set of values that will instill more effective thinking and behavior within ourselves and in others. We have all been around leaders who may say all the right things, but do not behave in a way that is aligned to the values they appear to promote in their communication.  

Authentic, grounded leaders, on the other hand, are in alignment with what they say, and it shows up in their behavior and actions. We may not all share the exact same set of values, but when you explore what makes some leaders so special and good and what they do, you start to see a pattern of some of these core leadership values:

  • Respect
  • Authenticity
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Making an impact
  • Courage
  • Humility
  • Living in Service

When leaders operate from a foundation built on these values, they are far more capable in their efforts to guide their teams and organization in a succinct and successful manner.

These common leadership values are important, but they do not necessarily extend to the development of emotional intelligence. They represent a good start, but in order to develop and nurture EQ effectively, leaders need to go deeper and investigate their own core emotional values.

Emotional Values

Emotional values are a little trickier to define, but I think we all know them when we see or feel them. Here are some examples of core emotional values that are critical for the development of EQ:

  • Trusting your gut instinct – Remember, not all thinking happens in the head. The heart and the “gut” send signals and spur emotional responses that go beyond what happens in the brain. People who are attuned to their emotional intelligence recognize there is wisdom to be found in their gut feelings or intuition about people and situation.

  • Impulse control – Impulsive leaders do not operate with the best interests of their people or respective organizations in mind. Leaders with well-developed EQ muscles, however, can use mindfulness and awareness to regulate and manage these impulses. Lean into the power of pause which might only be a few seconds, to stop, think and reframe (if needed) before proceeding to react. We combat impulse control by being proactive, not reactive in how to respond to situations on a moment-by-moment basis. 

  • Openness – Some leaders may appear more rigid mentally and present emotional boundaries that separate people and ideas into “in” and “out” groups. They may not be as open to new ideas or accept innovation because of their preconceived notions that they have all the answers and are married to their own way of thinking. Openness and being curious allows leaders the possibility to consider new ideas and recognize the voices of people they might otherwise ignore, to foster ownership and creativity in the workplace.

  • A sense of purpose – Feeling called to leadership is not something that can be understood fully on an intellectual level. It happens in the gut and in the heart, and it can be difficult to describe for some people. But it is just as real as any other thought or feeling, this sense of purpose and wanting to help others succeed in ways that go beyond achieving goals and objectives for the organization. That is a byproduct of caring leadership that we described in our last blog. It is an emotional connection/feeling that informs everything that grounded leaders do, and it is a key component to the development of emotional intelligence.

How does this apply to the development of EQ?

If you can wrap your head around the meaning of EQ, but you have not connected with the necessary emotional values in your heart, you can still try to cultivate them through action. 

Being more open minded, more purposeful, less impulsive, and more trusting of your gut instinct can help enhance your leadership effectiveness. It will help soften the rigid mental structures and allow you to connect more deeply with your heart and gut.

Positive Habits for the Head & Heart

Everything we do is based on a combination of impactful, positive habits and ineffective habits that guide our thinking and behavior. If you want to develop healthier and more powerful habits for the head and heart, then tune into these simple suggestions to help foster and develop your EQ muscles.

Active Listening

Emotionally intelligent people are masters of active listening. They don’t just hear what others have to say; they feel it. 

Being Comfortable with Saying “No”

Leaders who have healthy boundaries and who are not afraid of protecting their time and energy will be able to leverage their EQ muscles more readily. Stress and fatigue work against building and nurturing these muscles. Grounded, emotionally intelligent leaders have developed the habit of assertively and kindly saying no when it is appropriate to do so.

Practicing Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is one of the primary keys to developing EQ. Thankfully, it’s also something you can practice. Make a habit of paying attention to your words and actions at each moment. You could even go so far as to “narrate” yourself as a method of building awareness of your thinking and behavior. This is a wonderful way to take yourself off autopilot and take back control of your emotions and actions.

Avoiding Toxicity

Leaders who lack emotional intelligence often feel it’s their job to wade into toxic waters so they can try and fix or control negative people and situations. Emotionally intelligent leaders, on the other hand, leverage their judgment and discernment to evaluate people and situations that are unhelpful or overly negative. Of course, as a leader, it is your job to deal with a wide variety of people and situations. But you also have the right to walk away or sever connections with those who do not serve you or your organization in a healthy way. We suggest making a habit of recognizing toxicity in all aspects of your life and mindfully separating yourself from it.

Pay Attention!

The purpose of implementing these habits is to energize the head and the heart in ways that awaken emotional intelligence. But you also must pay attention to what’s happening inside yourself, listen to your body, explore how you feel, and trust your gut instinct as it will keep you safe. By paying attention and becoming attuned to your feelings, emotions and thinking, you will be able to tune into the emotions of others more readily, too, as that is what emotional intelligence is all about.

Help for Balancing Your Head and Heart

Have you rated yourself lately on how well you balance your head and heart in your leadership position? Have you found yourself reacting instead of being proactive? Do you feel the lines blur, depending on the situation? We want to hear from you! Feel free to contact me today at 416-560-1806 or send me an email at

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