The Four Pillars of Emotional Intelligence

Jun 11, 2021 5 Min Read
emotional intelligence

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What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is

the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence.”

This is based on research by TalentSmartEQ, who found EQ led to 58% of success in all types of jobs. EQ expert Travis Bradberry has found 90% of top performers are also high in emotional intelligence. Based on those figures, it makes good sense to assess your levels of emotional intelligence and invest in their development.

Four Pillars of Emotional Intelligence

What is EQ? According to Daniel Goleman (Note 1), many people equate it as being nice to others, but there’s a lot more to it.
There are four pillars to emotional intelligence:

  1. self-awareness,
  2. self-management,
  3. social awareness, and
  4. relationship management.

The first two pillars focus on you and how well you know yourself. 

Self-Awareness means having a comprehensive grasp of who you are as a person and leader, and how you connect and show up in the world. Laura Wilcox, former director of management programs at Harvard Extension School, says, “The core of high EI is self-awareness: if you don’t understand your motivations and behaviours, it’s nearly impossible to develop an understanding of others. A lack of self-awareness can also thwart your ability to think rationally and apply technical capabilities.”
Without knowing yourself, you can’t master self-control, nor understand and successfully relate to others. You can’t rely on your gut feelings to guide you during difficult situations. Self-aware people know their strengths and weaknesses and how to manage them. They have a better understanding of emotions and how they affect behaviour and can recognise those emotions in others.

Read More: Five Steps to Build Greater Self-Awareness

Self-management is your ability to control your reactions and impulses. It includes your emotional self-control, transparency, adaptability, initiative, and optimism. This is essential during times of change or chaos when your ability to lead your team calmly is critical. Leaders who can control their emotions can think more clearly and think on their feet without letting fear hold them back.
The next two pillars focus on how you relate to others. 
Social awareness involves understanding what is happening for others and using empathy to connect. Socially aware leaders are considerate of other people’s needs, concerns, perspectives, and emotions. They pick up non-verbal cues and interpret them, giving them the power to choose the appropriate response. Leaders who are aware of their impact on social situations modify their behaviour to bring about the result they want.
Knowing yourself is the precursor of authenticity. When you’re self-aware, you act and interact in an authentic way, so people relate to you.
Relationship Management involves developing others, initiating and managing change, handling conflict, using the power of influence to achieve goals, and managing team dynamics.
Social relationships hold teams together. Through careful building and management of relationships, leaders can influence team performance. This is how leaders inspire teams to support each other, resolve conflicts, and commit to a course of action.

How to Build Your Four Pillars

There are many ways in which you can focus on improving your EQ. For instance, you can keep a diary to record and reflect on your experiences. Take an emotional check-up every day. Reflection is critical to developing greater self-awareness, which leads to greater self-management. Without an objective understanding of yourself, you won’t realise your strengths or find areas for self-improvement.
You can also actively invite feedback on your behaviour from people that you trust. Honest feedback helps you to identify and act on any of your blind spots. You can also work with a coach to set goals for improving your emotional intelligence and receive ongoing support as you progress.
Finally, remember that the best step to improving your EQ is to make the choice to do it. Your personal development, your behaviours, your relationships, and your reactions are all based on choice. You choose what to say, how to behave, and how to react.
If you think EQ is all about being ‘nice’, you’ll never achieve the quality of relationships, the level of influence and the quality of leadership you aspire to. Put simply, EQ can make you a better person and better leader. EQ will help you survive the challenges you face every day and come out stronger and in control. When you see the payoff, you’ll understand why your EQ is worth investing.

Keep in touch with how your team is feeling by using techonology like Happily (or Budaya for those from Indonesia). This app is an amazing engagement app built for organisations to drive engagement amongst employees. It has amazing analytics and also provides activities for employees to be fully immersed in the organisation's culture and values. To find out more, click here or email

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  1. Daniel Goleman Article - Harvard Business Review
Caroline Kennedy, author of Lead Beyond 2030: The Nine Skills You Need to Intensify Your Leadership Impact, is an accomplished CEO and global thought leader on business and leadership. She is a highly sought-after mentor and coach to top global executives. A respected keynote speaker and author, Caroline’s methods are neuroscience based to achieve rapid development and growth. For more information on Caroline’s work visit

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