To be an effective leader, you must master this one important trait.

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Your office walls may be filled with degrees and certifications hanging in crisp, gold frames.

You may boast an impressive resume or track record that few can match. You may even have the perfect GPA and might know more about your job than Gordon Ramsay knows about cooking.

These are a few qualities that can support your climb to success, but there is one very vital component to leadership that can either make or break your ability to lead.  

And that is... emotional intelligence (EI). EI is defined as, “the capacity of individuals to recognize their own, and other people's emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.”

Countless studies have found that those with a high EI possess greater mental health, job performance, and leadership skills. 

Emotional intelligence plays a key role in our daily lives. So, what are some of the characteristic that help you up your EI score?

Here are 11 simple but effective principles that can increase your effectiveness in the EI department:

  1. Be open to change and recognize that the world doesn’t revolve around you, your ways, and your timeline.
  2. Avoid becoming paralyzed when the unknown hits you in the face like a whack of white fluff during a Pie Face Game. 
  3. Respond to people instead of reacting to them. Be mindful of your own values and principles and know how someone with different thoughts might trigger your core.
  4. Be sensitive to the thoughts and viewpoints of others, and listen before jumping in with your opinion and suggestions.
  5. Interact with others to learn more about them - rather than to share more about yourself.
  6. Regardless of someone’s resume and endless list of accomplishments, try to understand behaviors and actions that might be a problem down the line.
  7. Listen to the sound advice from Disney’s Frozen – “let it go.” Holding a grudge creates a greater emotional distance that will manifest into poor performance reviews and unintentional sabotage.
  8. Identify personal differences and make a mental note of your own bias towards someone else’s way of doing, thinking and behaving.
  9. When you feel strongly about a colleague or client, find a word to label that emotion so it becomes more real. If the emotion is hurting you, acknowledge that this state is causing distress and ask yourself what you can do to replace that negative emotion with one that will support you better. 
  10. Ask for permission. If you’re feeling a certain way or observing someone behave, respond or act a certain way, ask them how you can support them or how they can support you to move through things.
  11. Become better at reading body language – yours and those of the people around you.  

The key to developing your EI is to become to be a thermostat rather than a thermometer.

A thermometer reflects the temperature of the environment. It serves one purpose, and that is to react to what is happening around it. A thermostat’s job, on the other hand, is to maintain the temperature in a particular area. It sets the tone and when adjustments are needed, surroundings are signaled to increase or decrease in temperature. 

When situations or people around you are unpredictable, ever-changing, and chaotic, tune in to those unique qualities inside you that allow for self-reflection to correctly handle the environment around you.

In the time of chaos, uncertainty and tension, keep this one simple phrase in mind – “Be a thermostat.”