Rewind to March 2013, in the weeks leading up to a million dollar fundraising gala that I was managing, I found myself sitting with a close friend when all of a sudden, my face starts to leak. We were talking about what busy season is like for me at work and out of the blue, I could feel my eyes start to well up. I stopped mid-conversation, confused as to why I was crying. Through my tears I asked my friend, “Why is my face leaking? What’s wrong with me?” she calmly and diplomatic responded, “Maybe you’re tired and maybe you feel overwhelmed.”

I pride myself on being the alpha’s alpha. As much as I’m known for being self-aware, forward moving and transparent, my emotional growth has been a journey and one that requires much more work for me, than managing a team, running a fundraising event, leading a campaign or basically anything else work related. When my friend pointed out my emotions, I felt exposed. I was terrified that she would realize I was human and that in my humanity, she would find something undesirable and unworthy of friendship. Having been working on my emotional self-awareness for the last few years I quickly knew that my fears weren’t rooted in reality and I opted instead to hear what she said and pause.

She was right; I was exhausted and emotionally drained. It was at that moment that I realized, feelings are just data. They are information that you use in decision making and for those of us interested in our own evolution and authenticity, they are gold.

Emotional intelligence is in many ways the final frontier in leadership development. Major think tanks and accomplished authors have increasingly highlighted how emotional intelligence plays a significant role in the lives of successful leadership. If you have any desire to lead at work, at home or in your community, take the time today to make progress on your emotional intelligence.

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5 Ways to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

1. Create a feelings log

If you’ve ever gone to a nutritionist, the first thing they will ask is that you keep track of everything that you eat for a week. Their goal is to highlight what your intake is in order to understand where you are currently in your habits. Next week, write down the emotions you feel during the day and note what happened right before the emotion. For example, do you call a friend every day at the same and find yourself an hour later feeling upset? These are patterns that are important to begin to observe.

2. Assess

After a week of collecting you emotional data, read through and begin to highlight trends. Maybe you realize that you are a generally happy and calm person until your 3 p.m. sleepy time at the office or that, in general, you are cranky until 11 a.m. Work to understand the story that your emotions are telling you.

3. Pick a goal

Feelings are information. What have you learned from your log that you’d like to address? I know that for me, after the conversation with my friend about my stress tears, I realized that I needed more deep relaxation time in my life. I started to get the occasional massage and spend more time in nature, which have both had a profound impact.

4. Establish a buddy system

Even with the best of intentions, reaching a goal isn’t easy. If emotional intelligence isn’t your strongest asset, finding an accountability partner will help support you as you’re growing. Maybe a best friend or a sibling, someone who you can share what you’re working on and ask for them to hold you accountable as you stretch to become an even more awesome version of yourself.

5. Repeat

Re-do these steps and begin to widen the circle of accountability partners until you find yourself whole. Remember, this is actually about validating your own humanity and value, and if you don’t do it, who else will?

Ask Levo League’s Chief Leadership Officer Tiffany Dufu about managing your emotions in both your professional and personal life!