Are You a Leader With Low EQ?


Are you a leader with low EQ? I must admit my initial thoughts about starting with a negative question were challenged. However, in order to grow as leaders, its imperative we identify with what is lacking in our arsenal of skills. Before you answer the question above, let us look at what is EQ.

Emotional intelligence refers to the capacity to identify, evaluate, and manage emotions in one’s self as well as in other people. While some researchers believe this ability may be trained and developed, other experts suggest emotional intelligence is a trait a person must be born with.

Some key principles of emotional intelligence include:

  • Self-awareness – the ability to recognize personal emotions, emotional triggers, and limitations
  • Self-regulation – the ability to manage emotions so they do not have a negative effect
  • Motivation – an inner drive that comes from the personal joy experienced after an accomplishment
  • Empathy – the ability to recognise, understand, and experience the emotions of another person
  • Social skills – the ability to interact and negotiate with other individuals in order to find the best way to meet the needs of each person

To be effective leaders in the workplace, managers, supervisors, and other authority figures must be able to function productively with people under their charge. A good leader is able to create the type of work environment where each person feels relevant and motivated to succeed. An individual’s level of emotional intelligence is often referred to as his or her emotional intelligence quotient, or EQ. Here are some of the classic signs of low emotional intelligence:

Always playing the victim role

Victims don’t accept responsibility when something goes wrong in the workplace. Having a victim mentality is incredibly destructive because it absolves us of the capacity to do anything to improve our situation. Positive psychology states that this is one of the reasons why some people become pessimists – they literally feel like they have absolutely no control over what is happening in their lives.

As a result you see people with this mindset who often complain about what others – their boss, their friends, their husbands, their parents, are doing to them. I’ve met people in their 40s who still blame their parents for their misfortunes.

People who have a victim mentality drain energy, put people down and have a difficult time sustaining relationships in the long term. After all, emotions are incredibly contagious.

Refusing to accept critical feedback

Low EQ individuals cannot accept feedback without getting defensive. They interpret any communication to them as an attack on their character, competence and overall ability.

None of us enjoy getting criticised. It’s human nature to enjoy being right and feel a sense of hurt when we’re wrong. The thing is, we all need criticism. Although we’re generally drawn to like-minded people, those who disagree with us truly help us grow. The ones who call us out, point out our weaknesses and flaws…are the ones who make us better

Use passive-aggressive communication styles

Passive-aggressive behaviour is characterised by dependence and manipulation. It combines negative attitudes and pessimism which are so strong they drag others to a point of deep mental and emotional exhaustion. Likewise, these characteristics make for a defiant personality that is, unfortunately, very common. This behaviour always masks hidden anger, however it will show up through language. Some confusing messaging include:

  • I don’t understand what you are trying to tell me” (even if they know exactly what we are trying to communicate).
  • Whatever you want” (affirmations that end the discussion as soon as possible in order to avoid sincere and direct emotional communication).
  • “Why do you act like this? You take everything so seriously” (the passive-aggressive person uses these kinds of phrases to humiliate the listener and push him/her to their limit).


Train your brain by repeatedly practicing new emotionally intelligent behaviours, it builds the pathways needed to make them into habits. As your brain reinforces the use of these new behaviours, the connections supporting old, destructive behaviours die off. Before long, you will begin responding to your surroundings with emotional intelligence without even having to think about it.

Please do share your thoughts on what areas of emotional intelligence you may require assistance with? I would love to hear from you.

Founder and CEO of Elite Performers. Shiraaz is a Leadership, Career Coach and NLP practitioner who writes on leadership and management challenges. He also targets other areas of personal and professional

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