How to empower your leadership genius

“Do I have one?” you ask. Yes!

We girls definitely have special-issue mojo, but the intelligence I’m talking about is less about any Einstein quotient and more about our ‘nature of being’- the side of us that is innately nurturing, supportive, engaging, emotionally intelligent, compassionate, gracefully assertive, sensitive, and aware.

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Research on the topic of ‘What makes great leaders great?’ points specifically to emotional intelligence (EQ) as being the superstar of all of these traits.

By definition, EQ is the ability to recognise, understand, and tactically manage emotions in self and others to create a desired outcome. Flowing with this process can be challenging, however, when a conversation triggers our defensive ego causing us to knee-jerk into a regrettable reaction.

Can we grow and develop our EQ to avoid this common scenario? Absolutely. Try following this 5-step process:

In a confronting moment, ask yourself:

1. What am I feeling right now?

Take a moment to focus on the quality of your emotions. What exactly are you thinking and feeling? Can you label it? For example, are you feeling defensive, angry, anxious, resentful, disappointed, concerned, vindictive, or impatient?

These are all valid emotions, but in creating this moment of self-awareness we provide ourselves with a buffer zone—an opportunity to ponder whether or not this particular emotion will be of assistance in helping us reach an effective outcome.

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2. Where could this emotion lead?

Quickly imagine this emotion playing out in conversation. In most cases we can see that by holding onto it we’ll be throwing petrol on a flame, moving directly into conflict or a heightened state of self-protection.

Unfortunately, if we follow through with it, we generally lose the chance to work through the interaction with a constructive mindset. (We’ll look at your options in Step 4!)

3. What is my primary goal?

The magic key is to get clear about the ideal. Are you looking to maintain a healthy relationship, influence an outcome, sell an idea, or arrive at an agreed decision?

By taking a split second to search for this clarity, you quite literally move away from the emotional seat of your brain, and into the frontal lobe, which handles the logical, thinking skills. This shift gives you a chance to become objective and constructive.

4. How can I shift my thinking to achieve this goal?

At this pivotal point of transformation, you must mindfully choose to alter your train of thought and emotional state. Anchor your new thinking to your situational goal and your tone, message, and behavior will follow.

Let’s say you have an important working relationship that must ideally remain healthy and productive. When they openly blame you for a failed project, you can intentionally decide to replace your desire to lunge for the jugular with a shift into objective curiosity, asking questions to explore what could be done differently in the future.

Alternatively you might also choose to create a moment of ‘empathy’ simply stating that you acknowledge their frustration (don’t take the bait).

5. How are others feeling and how can I help?

It’s a juggling act, but once you have a grip on managing your own emotions, you can also consider those of others.

Listen to their tone and messaging, observe their body language and be as sensitive as possible to what they value, need, and desire in the moment. Then find ways to accommodate, to create your best chance at generating a positive group outcome.

This process may seem lengthy, but know that with practice it takes split seconds and you’ll enjoy the constructive empowerment.

Muffy Churches is a Sydney-based speaker, executive coach, leadership specialist, and director of Beyond Focal Point. Find out more at