The Kentucky CPA Journal

Leadership and emerging professionals

Developing your EQ to gain a competitive edge

Issue 2

April 23, 2021

By Jaclyn T. Badeau, CPA, CGMA, MBA, EQ Certified

One of the critical areas of leadership to develop is emotional intelligence (EQ). In this column, I will explore what EQ is and why you should develop it by sharing advice from personal experience, feedback, research and interviews with several leaders within our CPA profession.

We know there are thousands of public accounting firms and companies who employ CPAs and other accounting and finance professionals. So how can a firm differentiate itself from their competition when most firms offer very similar services? How does a CPA, accounting and/or finance professional stand out with so many people striving for similar positions and promotions?

A competitive edge can be achieved when you focus on increasing your usage of Emotional Intelligence (EQ)! EQ is a set of emotional and social skills that collectively establish how well we:

  • Perceive and express ourselves
  • Develop and maintain social relationships
  • Use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way
  • Cope with challenges  (Steven J. Stein, PH.D., Howard E. Book, M.D., The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success (Ontario: Jossey-Bass, 2011), 13.)

Think of EQ like a road map. The purpose of a road map is to plot your travel from point A to point B in the most efficient manner. Once you understand and develop your EQ skills, you’ll be better equipped to navigate your personal and professional life from point A (where you are today) to point B (where you want to go). 


Being able to understand yourself, constructively express yourself, develop people skills, make effective decisions and be resilient are now required; no longer are the days where just checking the box, being good in a technical area or being smart, cut it. Clients and prospective employers are looking for individuals who can be more of a trusted advisor and business partner which requires developing your EQ leadership skills. Jessica McClain, CPA, CISA, PMP, CGFM, and Controller of Brand USA, reinforces this thought process and says, “a lot of the time professionals do not start focusing on their leadership skills until they are several years into their career; leadership starts Day One; it’s not about having a specific title.” To truly excel as a leader and gain a competitive edge for you and your company, you need EQ!

In fact, EQ is the largest predictor of job success; estimated to account for 27 to 45 percent of job success, depending on the role, while IQ only accounts for an average of 6 percent of job success! (Steven J. Stein, PH.D., Howard E. Book, M.D., The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success (Ontario: Jossey-Bass, 2011), 17.) Also, EQ is not fixed and can be developed no matter your age. Furthermore, research shows EQ attributing to higher sales, better performance, decreased attrition rates, and even increased productivity! (Multi-Health Services (MHS), ROI Brochure, (August 12, 2020)

Now that we understand the importance of EQ, lets dive into the five areas of the EQ-i2.0 model in more depth:

1. Self-perception = The inner self

a. This area of EQ focuses on these three leadership skills: self-regard, self-actualization and emotional self-awareness. It’s all about having confidence, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, pursuing something of meaning and understanding your emotions including your triggers and the impact they have on others.

b. Sarah Elliott, CPA, PCC, Executive Leadership Coach and Co-founder of Intend2Lead reiterates, “When we understand more of who we truly are - our natural skills, gifts and talents - it brings us confidence.” When we have confidence, it can provide reassurance across your firm/company and even to your clients, that you can help in a variety of different ways.

c. You must start your reflection in this area, as what you are unaware of, you cannot change and won’t be able to effectively build your leadership skills much further.

d. Here are some tips to approach this area of EQ:

  • Received positive feedback? Celebrate it.
  • Ask what is motivating you and your team members.
  • Keep a journal about the strongest emotion you experience each day and reflect on any accompanying bodily sensations and thoughts, how you became aware of the feeling, and any trends you see as to who and what pushes your buttons.

2. Self-expression = Outward expression (extension of the Self-Perception area)

a. This area of EQ focuses on these three leadership skills: emotional expression, assertiveness and independence. It encompasses constructively expressing and communicating your emotions, thoughts, and beliefs, and being free from emotional dependency.

b. I receive a lot of questions around assertiveness, so imagine a spectrum with passivity on one end and aggressiveness on the other - right in the middle is assertiveness. This is all about stating your position without offending others which allows your team and/or client to know where you stand, helps in gaining buy-in, and aids in managing conflict.

c. Take a moment to reflect on the self-expression area - if you were able to express yourself more constructively and provide direction on your own, could that help others read you better and give you confidence to move forward without constantly second-guessing yourself?

d. Here are some tips to approach this area of EQ:

  • Ask a trusted friend/colleague/significant other what your attitude is when expressing yourself, particularly on a subject or situation you find quite meaningful.
  • Test drive a tough conversation with a trusted friend.
  • Conduct a post-mortem about a recent decision you made - what can you learn for next time?

3. Interpersonal = People skills

a. This area of EQ focuses on these three leadership skills: interpersonal relationships, empathy, and social responsibility. It covers mutually satisfying relationships, understanding and appreciating how others feel, acting in a moral manner, and promoting the greater good for your team, organization, and community.

b. Tracey Golden, CPA, CGMA, AICPA Chairman and Retired Partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP said, “It’s critical to focus on listening – pay attention to where your team members are, especially now with the direction of hybrid working models. You want everyone to feel part of the decision and to feel heard.”

c. William G. Meyer III, CPA, CVA, ABV, CFF, CGMA, Managing Partner, Strothman and Company pointed out the strength of empathy as well, “Your power is your ability to listen, hear what clients are saying, and interpret their needs.”

d. Reinforcing the EQ area of social responsibility, Blair Manning, CPA, Audit Senior Manager, KPMG LLP noted, “As you progress, it’s all about how you are supporting and developing your team and if you can challenge others to help them grow.”

e. Here are some tips to approach this area of EQ: 

  • Set up frequent 15-minute chats or check-ins
  • Stop and listen more to others
  • Evaluate if your objectives connect to the broader vision.

4. Decision Making = Best way to solve problems and make optimal choices

a. This area of EQ focuses on these three leadership skills: problem solving, reality testing, and impulse control. It comprises finding solutions when emotions are involved, seeing things as they really are, being objective, and resisting or delaying the impulse to act.

b. Decisions are part of moving yourself and a firm/company forward. One way to learn how to make better decisions is through observation of experts. Eric Scott, CPA, Managing Director, Ernst & Young U.S. LLP, mentioned if you ever get invited to an upper-level management meeting, “show up, listen to the discussion, ideas, and thought processes, and reflect on it to help you understand the why behind things and the method for making decisions.”

c. Here are some tips to approach this area of EQ: 

  • Explain the problem to a trusted peer
  • Check the perspective of someone outside of the situation
  • Take a ten second pause or briefly walk away before responding to an email/person/circumstance.

5. Stress Management = Resiliency

a. This area of EQ focuses on these three leadership skills: flexibility, stress tolerance, and optimism. It covers adapting your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, coping with stressful situations, and maintaining a positive attitude and outlook on life.

b. Life is inevitably going to bring you stress at some point. It’s how you manage it that will reveal if you move forward successfully or not. One of those crucial differentiators between successful leaders and others in the workplace, is optimism. We all suffer personal and professional setbacks small and large, it’s how we handle it that makes an impact.

c. Lisa Wilson, CPA, CGMA, Chief Financial Officer, LockNet advocated, “Making a mistake is an opportunity to learn and can sometimes result in process improvements.  In the best cases, a mistake leads to innovation.”

d. Here are some tips to approach this area of EQ: 

  • Explore alternate solutions
  • Calm your mind for five minutes before jumping into your next meeting
  • When a negative thought enters your mind, write it down, and have a designated time each day to “deal with them.”

By understanding, developing, and leveraging your EQ skills, you can transform yourself, your team, and firm/company by being able to know yourself better, express yourself more constructively, develop people skills, make better decisions, and be more resilient. In our next Journal article, we will explore how to advance within a firm, company, and/or profession by leveraging your EQ leadership skills among other things.

Jaclyn Badeau

About the author: By Jaclyn T. Badeau, CPA, CGMA, MBA, EQ Certified, is the owner of Badeau Consulting. Badeau is a coach, speaker, trainer and consultant and can be reached at