At Transformative Visions, we have always been fascinated with emotional intelligence, in fact, we find it to be more important than IQ, especially if you want leaders to be authentic. We look for high EQ in our personal, as well as our professional relationships, as we know the impact of leading through empathy. 

Low EQ Characteristics 

We have all encountered people with low EQ and understand it creates an unhealthy, often toxic environment – whether at work or at home.  Below, is a comprehensive list of characteristics, compiled by JoAnn Corley, Founder of The Human Sphere. These characteristics are exhibited when one is lacking emotional intelligence. It’s important to understand these as organizations often do promote the emotionally inept.

Below are the list of characteristics:

  • Lack of discernment
  • Using absolute, grandiose, exaggerated or catastrophic terms as standard parts of speech: always, never, super, disaster, amazing, tremendous
  • Easily triggered, often angry
  • Over reactionary & temperamental, especially if they don’t get their own way
  • Cyber-bullying / bullying of any type
  • Refusing to acknowledge a fact
  • Difficulty admitting a wrong
  • Habitually defaults to defensiveness
  • Difficulty apologizing
  • Continuous diversion in a conversation to point of the ridiculous
  • Insulting/demeaning/belittling those in opposition
  • Lack of civility
  • Over personalizes events and/or actions of others
  • Talks about oneself disproportionately, using “I” much more than “we”
  • Claiming to be the only source of hope, almost as a savior
  • Making statements of power, that are beyond reason or capability
  • Tit for tat
  • Easily wronged
  • Petty and insecure
  • Refusal to acknowledge reality
  • Glib communication in which lies are fluidly expressed with no sense of error
  • Acts like a victim when things don’t go their way
  • Attacks back instead of receiving input or feedback
  • Revengeful, not able to let go of an offense
  • Blames others for one’s missteps
  • Superior and feels they know more than anyone else

EQ scores in Different Roles

We found that EQ scores climb with titles from the bottom of the corporate ladder upward toward middle management. Middle managers stand out with the highest EQ scores in the workplace because companies tend to promote people into these positions who are level-headed and good with people. The assumption here is that a manager with a high EQ is someone for whom people will want to work. However, things change drastically as you move beyond middle management, where scores descend fast, with CEOs often having the lowest EQ scores in the workplace. Why is that?

As you work up, companies focus on metrics to make hiring and promotion decisions. While these short-term, bottom-line indicators are important, it’s shortsighted to make someone a senior leader because of recent monetary achievements. Possibly worse than metrics, companies also promote leaders for their knowledge and tenure, rather than their skill to lead and in inspiring others to excel. Once leaders get promoted they often lose sight of how their emotional states impact those around them. It’s so easy to get out of touch that leaders’ EQ levels sink further. Companies are doing themselves a disservice by hiring leaders who aren’t well-rounded enough to perform at the highest levels for the long term.

High EQ Characteristics

The most successful leaders have high levels of emotional intelligence. They possess the ability to understand and manage their own emotions, and those of the people around them, leading from empathy and authenticity. As a comparison, below are four characteristics that define high emotional intelligence: 

  • Self-Awareness: One who is able to identify their own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior. You know your strengths and weaknesses, and have self-confidence.
  • Self-Control: One who is able to self-regulate and manage impulses, exercise self-control, self-manage, not lose their tempers and manage their emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Empathy: One who is able to identify with the emotions and feelings of others. You can understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people, pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable socially, and recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization.
  • Responsive: One who is able to respond appropriately to all matters. You know how to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict.

Importance of High EQ

As we know, it’s not the smartest people who are the most successful or the most fulfilled in life. You probably know people who are academically brilliant and yet are socially inept and stressed, or not successful. Intellectual ability (IQ) isn’t enough to achieve success in life, your EQ is what will help you to manage the stress and emotions you face in life. IQ and EQ exist in tandem and are most effective when both are present.

We should be looking for these qualities in all forms of leadership! Low EQ has negative effects in the workplace – dragging down morale and reducing productivity, as toxic environments are often the result, with teams tiptoeing around that leader.  A study by Pearson and Porath of thousands of managers and employees found the following to occur when employees work with some who exhibits negative behavior:

  • Two-thirds of employees said their performance declined
  • Four out of five employees lost work time worrying about unpleasant incidents, or the toxicity
  • 63% wasted time avoiding the low EQ offender
  • More than 75% of respondents said that their commitment to their employer had waned
  • 2% resigned due to the low EQ behavior

Impact of Emotional Intelligence

  • Your performance in all areas of life. High emotional intelligence can help you navigate the social complexities of the workplace, lead and motivate others, and excel in your career. 
  • Your physical health. If you’re unable to manage your emotions, you are probably not managing your stress either. This can lead to serious health problems. 
  • Your mental health. Uncontrolled emotions and stress can also impact your mental health, making you vulnerable to anxiety and depression. If you are unable to understand, get comfortable with, or manage your emotions, you’ll also struggle to form strong relationships. This in turn can leave you feeling lonely and isolated and further exacerbate any mental health problems.
  • Your relationships. By understanding your emotions and how to control them, you’re better able to express how you feel and understand how others are feeling. This allows you to communicate more effectively and forge stronger relationships, both at work and in your personal life.
  • Your social intelligence. Being in tune with your emotions serves a social purpose, connecting you to other people and the world around you. Social intelligence enables you to recognize friend from foe, measure another person’s interest in you, reduce stress, balance your nervous system through social communication, and feel loved and happy.

Dealing with Low EQ

Below are five fundamental strategies that can help when you encounter a leader with low EQ:

  • Acknowledge them. Leaders have a lot on their plate; they are juggling more than one responsibility at a time. The best way to work with a busy leader who lacks emotional intelligence is to acknowledge their emotions and frustrations, to let them know you see their challenges and hardships. Let them learn how it feels to be acknowledged. 
  • Serve them. Leaders serve others, so even if you feel they don’t need your help, it can be beneficial to let them be on the receiving end of service. Give respectful feedback without criticism. 
  • Calm them. A big component of emotional intelligence is the ability to manage emotions and triggers. If your leader has a low EQ, it may fall to you  to calm them down and model for them how emotionally intelligent people are able to regulate and control their emotions.
  • Appreciate them. It’s hard for a leader not to notice when people on their team are appreciative and thoughtful. It not only makes them feel good but also sets the tone for the way people speak to each other and behave toward each other. Consideration, compassion and understanding are important elements to demonstrate.
  • Lead them. Be the example you want to see in your team and your company. Watch your own emotions and your own triggers—be the person who understands how your emotions impact others and recognize the role you may have played in creating difficult circumstances.