5 Emotional Intelligence Hacks That Can Immediately Improve Your Leadership

3. Stop blaming others

Emotionally intelligent people are not just self-regulated, they’re self-motivated. This means they’re willing to do things like take responsibility for their actions.

If you want to become more responsible, stop blaming others. Blame is the opposite of responsibility.

So what do you do when things go wrong? When someone lets you down? Or when something beyond your control halts progress?

Well, that’s when you assume responsibility. Even if it’s not your fault (which is exactly why you’re ‘assuming’ it).

When things go wrong, say this: “I’m the leader. I’m responsible.” (My team has heard me say it 1,000 times.)

Often I may not even have caused the problem. But that isn’t the point. I’m the senior leader. I’m responsible. I need to get our team together to figure out how to push past the problem. Often I say it out loud to remind myself that blame is not an option.

So take responsibility and move forward.

It’s amazing how freeing that can be. And it has the side benefit of both rallying your team and having someone who may have been responsible come forward and assume responsibility for a dropped ball.

Why? Because nobody blamed them. Good people will often own up rather than run and hide.

4. Drop the excuses

Emotionally intelligent leaders take responsibility for everything they did that didn’t work out.

Late for a meeting? Traffic didn’t make you late. You made you late. (You should have left earlier.)

Didn’t get that report done? Don’t say your kid got sick or that you couldn’t sleep. All of that may be true, but how does it help? You just didn’t get it done.

Poor leaders make excuses. Good leaders make progress. Because (as we’ve often said around here), you can make excuses, or you can make progress, but you can’t make both.

If you stop making excuses, it will do something more than change your standing in the eyes of your colleagues, it will make you come to terms with you. You will get so honest with yourself that you’ll be uncomfortable, which is where real progress comes from.

The added benefit? Leaders who own their mistakes eventually make fewer mistakes.

5. Don’t sink to the lowest common denominator

Another hallmark of emotionally intelligent leaders is their refusal to take shots—cheap or otherwise. When the dialogue sinks to a low level, they take the high road.

It can be hard not to refute all your critics or descend to the level to which others sometimes go.

There’s a simple quote that reminds me again and again why there’s no payoff in taking the low road:

Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig liked it.

That’s just true on about a thousand levels.

The high road isn’t the easy road, but it’s always the best road.

What Helps You?

Those are five emotional intelligence hacks that have helped me. What’s helped you?

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Carey Nieuwhof
Speaker and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in Canada. With over 6 million downloads, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast features today's top leaders and cultural influencers. His most recent book is “Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.” Carey and his wife, Toni, reside near Barrie, Ontario and have two children.