Seven Ways Leaders Increase Their Emotional Capacity During Tough Times

During a zoom team building call I led last week, I asked the team members to describe their emotions in one word. The responses were shocking:
  • Exhausted
  • Drained
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Irritable
  • Sinking
Talk about a reality check! Not one person described a positive emotion. Why? Because these days are very tough, alarming, and disruptive for us all.

I shared I felt their pain and was grappling with similar ranges of emotions. I also shared what I had found to be key in helping reframe my mindset in order to get out of the emotional heap pile I was living in.

Here are seven practical ways to increase your emotional intelligence during tough times:

1. Feed the positive emotional dog

There is a tug-of-war over emotions. Like dogs fighting inside of us, in a way. One is positive and the other is negative. This week, try to feed the positive dog of emotions because the dog you feed the most wins the battle. One way I have increased my positive emotional dog is by listening to podcasts during my walks or when I exercise. I’ve found that to be helpful. 

2. Do not RSVP to any pity parties

Pity only leads you down a path to dead ends. Fight for your minds right to be a positive leader, not a pity leader.

3. Identify small people and move on

I actually discontinued a client engagement, phasing them out due to their “small thinking and speaking” as a whole. I felt it was bringing a negative force to my team and was impacting my emotions. It is important to guard your relationships both professionally and personally. 

4. Clean up your prison quarters

I’ve felt like a prisoner in my own home. My wife Julie and I planted potted flowers, washed our outdoor furniture, and cleaned our living space. It was amazing how emotionally energized we both felt afterwards. 

5. Talk to yourself

On my daily walks, I talk to myself with seven self affirmations: I am… strong, healthy, positive, optimistic, energized, caring, and faith-filled. 

6. Step off the roller coaster

Even out the “high and lows” you may be experiencing and strive to be emotionally level, even calm.

I once saw a story about a guy who got to play a round of golf with the PGA great Sam Snead. On hole one, Snead made a triple bogie, seven (three strokes over par). As they exited the green to go to the next hole, Snead was unruffled and explained, “That’s why we play eighteen holes.” 

7. Create a clean slate

Several years ago, I made a bad financial decision. I was angry at myself, disappointed, and depressed. As I explained it to my wife, she took my hand and said, “Steve, let’s create a clean slate.” It lifted a huge burden. The burden was heavier than my mistake itself.

Where do you need to create a clean slate? Where do you need to forgive yourself? Life is too short to carry burdens of emotional hurt and hang ups. 

This week and in the weeks ahead, build some emotional capacity to strengthen your days.

Best to You,


As a master storyteller, Steve has unparalleled ability to communicate dynamic business and leadership truths through stories, anecdotes and humor. Harness the power of the “number one” predictor of professional success, impact, leadership, high performance and sustainable relationships in business and life. Steve’s highest rated keynote presentation.

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“The purpose of Leadership Quest is to help professionals develop their personal leadership, vision and emotional intelligence. Everyday I strive to help leaders and teams achieve their desired goals in sales productivity, leadership, time maximization, and life-balance. ”

About the Author

Steve Gutzler is the President of Leadership Quest, a Seattle-based leadership development company. Steve is a dynamic, highly-sought-after speaker who has delivered more than 2,500 presentations to a list of clients including Microsoft, Starbucks, the Seattle Seahawks, Pandora Radio, Boeing, Cisco, Starwood Corporation, the Ritz Carlton group, and the U.S. Social Security Administration. He recently was voted #1 by the readership of Huffington Post as the Most Inspirational Leader on Social Media.

A published author on leadership and emotional intelligence, Steve resides near Seattle with his wife Julie where they enjoy time with their three adult children and six grandchildren.