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How to Become a More Emotionally Intelligent Leader


Emotionally intelligent leaders put the success of others before their own.

Leaders frequently hear about emotional intelligence as a mandatory skill for business success.

It’s a competency often sought by companies and other organizations looking to promote or hire people into major leadership roles. It’s taught in leadership development courses worldwide.

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Emotional intelligence – the ability to identify and regulate your emotions and those of others – has received more attention in leadership circles in the past decade. In addition to training and coaching, knowing how to become a more emotionally intelligent leader is a critical skill to learn and practice.

Here are a few tips for how to hone your emotional intelligence and become a more effective leader.

1. Suspend Judgement

Being able to suppress your critical sensibilities helps leaders connect better with their colleagues. This trait also allows for better listening and a greater propensity for curiosity.

Leaders who suspend judgment listen to learn, not to build an argument. They gain more empathy and foster creativity in their interactions.

2. Focus on Behavior

Words are truly cheap. Your behavior is far more critical, both for your own success, and in how others see you. It is those actions that help to redefine business outcomes and cultures.

If your words and actions are not consistent and congruent with the other, a leader will have a harder time establishing trust, confidence and inspiration among others.

3. Gain an Authentic Understanding of Self

Too many leaders practice self-deception rather than self-awareness. They lack the capacity or willingness to act for honest and constructive feedback. Emotional intelligence is really a function of two things: how we see ourselves and how others see us. It’s better for leaders when there is little to no disparity between self-perception and reputation.

Leaders who are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses are more effective.

4. Pay Attention to Others

For career success, leaders need to focus on the success of others, whether colleagues, business partners, customers or employees. Those with low levels of emotional intelligence often have a difficult time seeing things from others’ perspectives.

Taking an others-centric approach means appreciating and acknowledging others’ strengths, weaknesses, perspectives, beliefs and experiences. This is often best accomplished via brief but regular conversations with team members. These deeper understandings provide an opportunity for deeper collaboration, networking and teamwork.

5. Be Rewarding to Work With

Are you rewarding to work with? Do people value working with you and what you do to strengthen others? Rewarding leaders have a tendency to be trusting, cooperative, friendly and selfless. On the flip side, unrewarding people are often more critical, guarded, pessimistic, argumentative and confrontational. Over time, such people erode relationships and support. Who would you rather work with?

6. Regulate Your Emotions

It’s fine to be passionate and excited but only when it’s done proportionally. Getting too excited or emotional in good times or bad is problematic. Effective leaders use emotional regulation to remain in a steady state when there are challenges ahead. Emotionally intelligent leaders wait before sending that angry email, look for solutions before criticizing and offer authentic praise.

Emotional regulation will continue to be a priority for leadership development. Know what you can do to stand out.