When it comes to leadership, emotional intelligence (EQ) matters as much as, if not more than, IQ for work effectiveness and managing the people side of the business.

While definitions differ and the level of emotional intelligence can differ between individuals depending on the situation, leading scholars say it's having the ability to recognize and manage our own emotions as well as recognize and influence the emotions of others.

Naturally, not everyone is born with such superhuman skills. But everyone is capable of learning the strengths of emotional intelligence for competitive advantage. The key is having a starting point so you know what to shoot for.

Like many things in life, increasing your EQ takes practice. You can start with getting intimately familiar with the following five components of emotional intelligence to make you a better leader and human being.

1. Self-awareness

One of the cornerstones of EQ, self-awareness may be the most important skill to master. With self-awareness, you can probe your emotions in any given situation to understand what you're feeling and why. This is key for understanding how to appropriately respond, rather than impulsively react to a situation going south.

2. Managing your emotions

Mastering the ability to know why you're feeling a certain way is one thing. To elevate your EQ game even further, take what you know about how you feel to regulate yourself. For example, people with high EQ, when experiencing anger, frustration, or boredom, understand the triggers and will manage their emotions to positive outcomes. Psychologist and best-selling author Daniel Goleman says this about people who manage their emotions well:

Reasonable people--the ones who maintain control over their emotions--are the people who can sustain safe, fair environments. In these settings, drama is very low and productivity is very high. Top performers flock to these organizations and are not apt to leave them.

3. Reading other people's emotions

This uncanny knack for interpreting what someone may be feeling falls under social awareness. In social awareness, your EQ can pick up someone's emotions through both verbal and nonverbal communication with others. Don't mistake this for some sort of magical extrasensory perception. It is the active practice of deep listening and engaging with people meaningfully rather than dominating a conversation with an obsession with self.

4. Relationship management

This interpersonal skill allows one to act in ways that motivate, inspire, and harmonize with others, while also maintaining important relationships. It's where you'll find the traits of inspirational leadership. Goleman says, "You're a natural leader who can gather support from others with relative ease, creating a group that is engaged, mobilized, and ready to execute the tasks at hand." Goleman adds that this skill in action can "bring simmering disputes into the open and find win-win solutions."

5. Displaying empathy

People are drawn to empathy. It's an attractive quality to have in building successful relationships at work. In empathy, you'll find a team member thinking about another colleague's challenge or frustration, knowing in his or her mind that those emotions are every bit as real as his or her own. This ability to understand and share the feelings of another helps develop perspective and opens team members to helping one another.