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Leadership emotional intelligence self

Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and the self: Its all about you

Last month I shared a blog about emotional intelligence and leadership. The post looked at 3 key areas of Emotional Intelligence: understanding the self, understanding others and then effectively putting that knowledge and understanding to use, as a manager. In this article we’re going to look more closely at emotional intelligence and the self, or more specifically, Self-Perception. I’m going to look at three specific aspects of self-perception: self-regard, self-actualisation and emotional awareness, and discuss why they matter in terms of management and emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence: The Self

In the last article we highlighted how important it is for managers to first understand their own emotions. Understanding the self and our emotions is a big topic. So, to help signpost the discussion, I’m going to draw upon a specific model for emotional intelligence. The model is EQi 2.0, an assessment, feedback and development tool, specifically designed for Emotional Intelligence, created by MHS. The model splits Emotional intelligence into 5 major scales and then 15 sub-scales. For this discussion, I’m going to look at the major scale of Self-Perception, and the three subscales of self-regard, self-actualisation and emotional awareness.


leadership emotional intelligence self regard

Self-regard – Our Biggest Cheerleader or our cruelest critic

Self-regard, is the version of ourselves that we hold in our head. It our inner voice. What we say, the words we use, the stories we tell ultimately shapes our self-regard. When it comes to achievement, be that sporting, personal or in business, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that our self-regard plays a huge part. The theory is that, holding a positive self-regard can spur us on to achievement, whereas holding a negative self-regard can limit our potential or even throw obstacles in our path. Henry Ford put it far more pithily:

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right”

Holding a positive self-regard can help us realise goals and ambitions. Telling ourselves that we have what it takes to win, increases our chances for success. So too in business, self-belief and self-confidence are instrumental in realising individual success. However, self-belief also has a dark side. Just as positive self-regard can encourage us towards achievement, negative self-regard can talk us out of success. Thinking “we’re not good enough” or “we will never achieve x or y” are the opposite of motivating and inspiring.

For the emotionally intelligent manager, Self-regard isn’t just a question of focusing on the positive and reducing the negative. Like many elements of emotional intelligence, good self-regard has more to do with awareness and balance. Its about having an honest conversation with oneself, being clear on our strengths, our weaknesses and being accepting of them. Over-estimating our strengths, can lead to over-confidence, arrogance and making potentially reckless decisions. Over-estimating our weaknesses, can lead to self-limiting beliefs, giving up prematurely and not realising our potential. Balance is about getting the best from ourselves. When we know our strengths, we can play to them, to the best possible advantage. When we are aware of our weaknesses, we can take steps to mitigate them, or get support. Balance is about not letting the positive or negative dominate.

leadership emotional intelligence self actualisation

Self-Actualisation – Maslow was right

The second subscale of Self-Perception is that of Self-Actualisation. Some of us familiar with Abraham Maslow’s model, recognises that self-actualisation is just one of several elements in his hierarchy of needs. Self-actualisation sits atop the pyramid as the ultimate of all human needs. In terms of emotional intelligence, self-actualisation relates to the pursuit of meaning or having a sense of purpose in what we do. When we work in ways that are self-actualising we can feel greater satisfaction and reward, which in turn can feed into our sense of self. This all sounds good, but what do we mean by “self-actualising”?

Self-actualisation tasks or projects are those for which we are truly present and focused. Such tasks demonstrate our personal agency – where we set out to achieve something, and we achieve it. It can also be defined in terms of its opposite: auto-pilot. Auto-pilot is when we are basically turning up to work, doing a series of tasks, without thinking about them, then going home. We’re working almost automatically, putting very little of ourselves into the work. Work is transactional, a simple exchange: we put in the time and effort for which are compensated. Whilst this might be acceptable in some work roles, its certainly doesn’t make for getting the best from people.

In contrast, Self-Actualisation is about being present in our work, knowing that what we do is somehow advancing us towards an overall goal. When we work in ways that are self-actualising, we bring more of ourselves to the work. When we perform our work well, we get a sense of control and mastery – we’ve achieved something. Knowing this as a manager is vital, both for managing ourselves and managing others. If we create tasks, roles and teams that have potential for self-actualisation, then we are likely to be have better overall results and happier more fulfilled employees. Higher levels of self-actualisation at work can make us more satisfied and more productive.

leadership emotional intelligence self awareness

Emotional Self Awareness

“Emotional Self-Awareness includes recognizing and understanding one’s own emotions. This includes the ability to differentiate between subtleties in one’s own emotions while understanding the cause of these emotions and the impact they have on the thoughts and actions of oneself and others” – MHS

We’ve already mentioned how understanding of the self is the foundation of emotional intelligence. Nowhere is this more true than emotional self-awareness. Emotions guide behaviour and decision-making. So being self-aware of our own emotions gives us insight into how much our emotional state is influencing us. The manager who is so excited and personally motivated by an idea or strategy may under-estimate the risks and problems from it. Over optimism or being overly invested in the outcome can cause managers to have blind spots for reality, or become impervious to warnings.

Conversely, a manager who is anxious or nervous about a project might behave too cautiously. Excessive caution can cause delays, confusion or even raise questions about the likelihood for success. The cause of the anxiety can come as the result of the managers fears or concerns rather than as a result of external factors.

The same is true of people as projects. Emotions come into play when working with and managing people. For example, where a manager has warmed to an individual, they might be far more likely to approve their idea, purely because they like them. But liking someone doesn’t automatically make the idea a good one. Where a manager has become angry or irritated with an employee, that employees idea is more likely to be dismissed, even though their suggestion might be quite reasonable. In either case, our emotions are often an intrinsic part of our evaluation and decision making.

In truth, we cannot switch off our emotions, and we wouldn’t want to. Our emotions form part of who we are. However, the point is to be aware of our emotions so that we notice those moments when our emotions might trip us up. Becoming more emotionally self-aware means, detecting their influence, mitigating their excesses and recruiting that emotion, putting them to use in our work. This is not only good news for the individual manager, but also good for those who worth with them. Working for a manager who understands their own emotions, is much more likely to be able to self-regulate, which ultimately should mean working in a more predictable, consistent and potentially happier environment.

Leadership Emotional Intelligence Self

Self-Regard, Self-Actualisation and Emotional Self-awareness, why it matters in management

So, we’ve very briefly touched upon three key areas of the self an emotional intelligence. But what does this have to do with leadership and management? As we said at the very beginning, Emotional Intelligence in management is about understanding our own emotions, the emotions of other and then being able to leverage that understanding.

Lets take each of the three subscales discussed above in turn.

Self-Regard – Having a clear and honest understanding of the things we do well and the things we might struggle with, matters for two important reasons. First, because it shapes how we work with those around us. Second because it can give confidence or undermine it. Self-regard can act like our inner coach or personal cheerleader, encouraging us to achieve our goals and giving our confidence a boost. When we are confident of our abilities, we can step up taking on tasks and roles that hit our sweet spot. Equally, when we know the areas where we struggle, we can recruit help from those who have strengths in the areas we don’t. Self-regard is about knowing oneself, motivation and leveraging our strengths, whilst mitigating our struggles.

Self-Actualisation – This matters because, as Maslow suggested, it is a universal human need. Knowing this should help design roles or tasks that have potential for self-actualisation. The higher the capacity for self-actualisation, the more people will be motivated to perform the role or task and the greater the satisfaction they will experience from completing it. Clearly not all tasks or roles can have equal potential for self-actualisation. But simply knowing this means that managers can factor it into the design of a role, or at least recognise how strong a force for motivation it can be.

Emotional Self-Awareness – this matters because we are not robots when it comes to work. No matter how professional and logical we might try to be, our emotions form an invaluable part of who we are and the decisions we make. Knowing that emotions play a part, and then being aware of what causes our emotions, means that managers can be more in control of the situation, and less the victim of our emotion. As mentioned above, being more aware doesn’t mean being immune, it just means we recognise or notice when emotions play a part.

leadership emotional intelligence management

Emotional Intelligence and Management – Developing Self-Perception

So how can we develop healthy self-regard, work in ways that are self-actualising and become more emotionally self-aware?

An important first step would be to establish a baseline. One way to do that is to use the EQi assessment tool and feedback report. Based on an online questionnaire, the EQi survey probes the dimensions of self-regard, self-actualisation and emotional self-awareness. Once completed, we receive a personalised report, with our responses plotted against a norm group. From there we can estimate whether our results in these three areas is above, below or in line with the average. So we have our baseline.

leadership emotional intelligence selfperception

Next the EQi report also provides commentary and suggestions for how we might increase or develop our emotional intelligence. Unlike personality, which doesn’t really change over time, emotional intelligence can be developed. So, if we decide that we would like to work on a particular area of emotional intelligence, the EQi report provides some suggestions on what steps we can take.

Finally as we’ve said earlier, Emotional Intelligence is often about balance. The EQi report links our responses in one subscale with responses in different, but complementary subscales. Each report will indicate whether our responses are in balance with other dimensions of emotional intelligence. If we are out of balance, the report includes some suggestions of steps we might take to address the imbalance.

Emotional Intelligence is a recurring feature of many of the programmes we design and deliver for developing future leaders and managers. EQi is one of a suite of psychometric assessment tools available through Dove Nest group. Over the last 36 years the Dove Nest team have helped clients develop leadership and management capabilities. If this is something you would be interested in exploring, call us on 015395 67878, email us at or visit our website at