Fuel Your Emotional Intelligence by Balancing the Head and the Heart

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

Unfortunately, there is no single process or plan that can lead you to greater emotional intelligence. You cannot simply attend a workshop and expect to produce measurable improvements in your EQ. Nor can you read a book or undergo a training process that will magically make you more emotionally intelligent. That’s because EQ is far from being a “hard skill.” It is a combination of various “soft skills” such as self-awareness 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 developed and enhanced by paying attention to the world and one’s place in it. It requires a heightened sense of awareness, but it also demands diligence from those who are new to the concept. Ultimately, emotional intelligence is simple once you develop a feel for it. However, even though it is simple, it is far from being easy to master.

The key to developing and enhancing your emotional intelligence is to become more attuned to 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 emotional intelligence.

Identifying Your Emotional Values

We have all been around “leaders” who perceive to have poorly developed or completely absent values. These individuals rarely inspire others, and they often fail in their roles. They stoke resentment and disengagement within their organizations, and they are, by definition, unaware of their negative impact.

Real, grounded leaders, on the other hand, have identified and explored their values. They may not all share the same exact sets of values, but when you investigate what makes these leaders special, some common themes start to emerge. The values they embody often include:

  • Respect
  • Authenticity
  • Integrity
  • Making an impact
  • Wisdom
  • Courage
  • Humility
  • Service

When leaders operate from a foundation of these values, they are far more capable in their efforts to guide their organizations successfully.

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 core emotional values.

What do I mean by emotional values?

These are concepts that 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:

  • Leverage Your Intuition – 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 that there is wisdom to be found in their gut feelings or intuition about things.

  • Impulse control – Impulsive leaders do not operate with the best interests of their respective organizations in mind. In fact, they do not operate with much of anything in mind because they are constantly guided and directed by their impulses, which they seem to be unable to control. Leaders with well-developed EQ, however, can use mindfulness and awareness to regulate and manage their impulses which come and go. This allows them to stop, take a moment, and make sound decisions instead of acting rashly.

  • Openness – Many leaders develop rigid mental and emotional boundaries that separate people and ideas into “in” groups and “out” groups. They may not be as open to new ideas or accept innovation because of their preconceived notions or perceptions. Openness allows leaders the possibility to consider new ideas and recognize the voices of people they might otherwise ignore.

  • A sense of purpose – The call 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. But it is just as real as any other thought or feeling. This sense of purpose drives leaders in ways that go beyond status, recognition or financial compensation. It is a feeling that informs everything that grounded leaders do, and it is a key component to the development of emotional intelligence.

Sometimes You Have to “Fake it ‘til You Make It”

Have you ever heard the advice that if you want to be happy, just smile and happiness will follow? This is an example of “faking it ‘til you make it.” It’s advice that may not seem to have any grounding in psychology or science, but it actually works. In fact, scientists have discovered that it is possible to reverse engineer emotions, and many experts agree that it is a great strategy.

How does this apply to the development of your EQ?

If you can wrap your brain around the meaning of EQ, but you have not connected with the necessary emotional values, you can cultivate them through action. Acting more open, more purposeful, less impulsive and more trusting of your instincts can have the effect of transforming your internal emotional state. It helps you to loosen your grip on your rigid mental structures, which allows you to connect more deeply to your heart and gut.

“Faking it ‘til you make it” or perhaps choosing to look at the world in a more positive way is a wonderful way to jumpstart your journey into higher levels of emotional intelligence. It can connect you with essential aspects of yourself that have perhaps been dormant for some time. And it can also awaken your vulnerability, which is about sharing the true essence of who you are and being willing to share that with others in a meaningful and impactful way. But you must remember that this is only a strategy to help you develop your EQ, not the endgame. At a certain point, you need to truly embody the values and thinking in order to transcend to higher more impactful levels of leadership. 

Nevertheless, shifting your thinking, regulating your emotions, and allowing your heart and mind to follow is a terrific method of discovering the emotional intelligence you have inside you.

Habits for the Heart and Head

We know that taking action and putting things into practice is a terrific way to awaken the areas of the brain, gut and heart that contribute to emotional intelligence. It’s really all about habits. If you can develop some of the following habits, you will be able to unlock the aspects of yourself that are needed to foster and develop your emotional intelligence.


Emotionally intelligent people are masters of listening. They don’t just hear what others have to say; they feel it. As you find yourself in interactions with others, I would encourage you to practice the habit of active listening, which will go a long way toward engaging your EQ potential.

Being Comfortable with Saying “No”

Emotionally intelligent people have healthy boundaries, and they are unafraid of protecting their time and energy. Some leaders have the instinct to say “yes” to everyone and everything so as not to upset people. But 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 in each moment. You could even go so far as to “narrate” yourself as a method of building awareness of your 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 that it’s their job to wade into toxic waters so they can try and control negative people or 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. I suggest making a habit of recognizing toxicity in your life and mindfully separating yourself from it.

Tune In!

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 is happening inside yourself. Listen to your body and how it feels. Recognize where certain emotions and feelings “live” within you. By paying attention and becoming attuned to your feelings, you will be able to recognize the emotions of others more readily as well. This is truly what emotional intelligence is all about.

What are your thoughts on being on this topic? Please let us know what you think. I am here and available to support your leadership success so give me a call at 1.855.871.3374 or send me an email at joanne.trotta@leadersedgeinc.ca. We would love to hear from you!

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