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Emotional Intelligence and Great Leadership.

There is something unique about a leader. They inspire, captivate, motivate, and sometimes by their presence alone compel. Without question, leaders naturally imbue many qualities which command respect and cultivate a sense of awe in their followers.

One of the fundamental indicators of a great leader is their emotional intelligence. For a long time in Western companies, leadership was equated with management. There is an old saying, ‘managers do things right and leaders do the right things.’ Of course, management and leadership overlap one key distinguishing feature between the two is the level interpersonal skills. Great leaders impact us on a deeper level. We feel them in a way that brings out our best selves and are encouraged, just by their behavior to do better. This ‘X-factor’ which separates managers and bosses from leaders is emotional intelligence.

So what is emotional intelligence? It can be seen as the ability to understand and manage your emotional states and those of the people around you. People with high emotional intelligence really know what they’re feeling and why. They can better appreciate how what they’re feeling is affecting them and the people they are with.

Successful leadership is highly dependent on emotional intelligence as they can remain stable, grounded, and empathetic during times of uncertainty. They can weather the storms better than others so they naturally are sought out and looked up to.

According to Daniel Goleman, the pioneer of E.I., there are five key components:

  1. Self-awareness

  2. Self-regulation

  3. Motivation

  4. Empathy

  5. Social Skills

Managing each of these well is not easy but will ensure a person’s competency in a leadership role. The rest of the article will examine how someone can more effectively engaged in each of these areas.

Leadership and Emotional Intelligence


Self awareness involves having a deep understanding of your feelings and your effect on others. In order to do this you need to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses often so you can engage with yourself more and improve your behavior. In order to do this. A leader must exercise humility and be willing to concede they don’t know everything, and never will.

Ways to increase self-awareness?

  • Meditation - mindfulness meditation brings a myriad of benefits to an individual. Meditation for business professionals is especially useful to lower stress and improve health, clarity, and focus. Another benefit is the ability to observe yourself and see your habits, thoughts, and behaviors. Making this a regular practice means you are consistently giving yourself time to relax, feel, and learn about yourself.

  • Journaling - journaling has numerous benefits, one of which is as a tool for engaging with your thoughts, feelings, and actions in a new light. Journaling at the end of the day compels you to take a second look at how you felt, what you did, and how you behaved. It is a great habit for professionals and leaders to develop their self-awareness in an easy and practical way.


Leaders with good self-regulation are often calm, clear headed, and able to cope with stresses better than their peers. This enables them to consistently treat others fairly and make informed, rational decisions in business. Self-regulation is built around self-control which has it’s foundation in personal accountability. To self-regulate means to know who you are as you will always have a place of integrity and personal ground to rely on.

  • Know your values - Ultimately, all we have to rely on is ourselves. So, as a leader, it’s important to have a set of ethics or codes from which you can consistently rely on. This comes from an internal place, and reduces energy or time spent on making decisions around these areas.

  • Ownership - Always take the time to reflect on what you could have done differently or better. Building the habit of taking personal responsibility is a fundamental practice for self-development and to build humility.

  • Grounding - Grounding is a way in which a person practices being calm and centred in the face of stress and upset. There are numerous ways to do this including deep breathing, meditation, and restraint. Consider your state of mind before you say something out of anger or fear and go back to a place of calm and tranquility before you act. People around you will notice and feel much more safe.


Self-motivated people are very passionate about their goals and take great care in working towards them. This helps keep them driven and disciplined which is felt and admired by those around them. A motivated leader sets a great example.

How can you improve motivation?

  • Know why you are doing what you’re doing - Knowing why you do something is so important. When we engage in work or activities it is not always easy or stress free so having confidence in why you do what you do is important. This is another way of grounding and keeping your goals at the front of your mind.

  • Know who you are working for - It’s been proven the people who perform better have an understanding of who they are working for. It creates a feeling of necessity to keep going. Clearly visualizing who the people are you are working for allows you to invest more human capital into a project when things are not going as planned. Why? Because as people when we are not motivated we work better when we are held accountable. So learning to hold ourselves accountable is a great way to be consistent.

  • Adopt a growth mindset - Growth mindset is a way to formulate challenges and setbacks in a way that allows for learning and personal development. By taking responsibility and asking questions which compel you to look at how you can improve you are actively looking to take new actions in alignment with your goals. Failure is just a mindset and recognizing difficult times as opportunities will help build resilience and strength.


Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the position of the other person and see what they see, or even feel as they feel. This is a crucial ingredient for leadership as a leader without a team is nothing. Understanding your people is the safest way to ensure an appropriate response which comforts, motivates, and speaks to them. Showing your team that you care will win loyalty and respect and a reliable, secure team.

What are some ways to increase empathy?

  • Actively listen - There are a whole list of techniques a person can use to show another that they are listening. However, the easiest way to do this is to actually listen to the other person. Be present with them. Notice their tone, their body, their words. Pay attention and try to feel them as best you can. This will work wonders for your relationships and your team will feel that you really care.

  • Acknowledge their feelings - Team members won’t always feel good about decisions, plans or tasks. This can weigh on them and if they don’t think you really have their best interests in mind they may feel less inclined to follow you. A good leader knows when tough decisions need to be made and also appreciates that they are not always easy. Engage with people when they don’t feel good about a decision. Listen to them and really try and understand their why. This cultivates a healthy level of trust and gives you the ability to make better decisions in the future.

Social Skills

Great communications is the key to success. Great leaders can communicate their ideas clearly and decisively to different kinds of people. They have a good understanding of what it is that people respond well to and how to captivate their attention. They build effective networks and nourish a social circle of talented, intelligent, and driven individuals. Great communicators also manage teams and people well during difficult times.

How to improve communication skills?

  • Network - Engaging frequently with many different kinds of people allows you to get a feeling for how different people think, feel, respond and speak. Experience is a great teacher so talk with people and talk often. Self-reflect, and always seek to make the message more clear. Also, you build a more viable and professional circle which is pivotal for long-term success.

  • Don’t make assumptions - Good leadership involves seeing a problem from many different angles. Knowing that you don’t know is a very healthy way to engage with people and ask more questions, get feedback, ask their opinions, and rely on their input. If faced with a situation, especially involving one or many people, take the extra time to ask the right questions without assuming things. This is a very healthy habit to practice for all areas of your life.


To be effective, leaders must have a solid understanding of how their emotions and actions affect the people around them. The better a leader relates to and works with others, the more successful he or she will be.

Take the time to work on self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Working on these areas will help you excel in the future!

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1 Comment

Gary Reed
Gary Reed
Feb 09, 2020

I would agree with all of the aforementioned. Having assertiveness and a large presence in your field of expertise is a prerequisite in becoming an effective leader.

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