Qualities that Demonstrate Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Emotional Intelligence is the foundation for a host of critical skills and it impacts most of everything you do and say each day.


Do you try to identify and solve problems before they arise? Intuitive leaders make decisions based on wisdom. Logic is important, but can’t be the only determining factor for decision making. Effective leaders balance feeling and logic in making decisions. Effective leaders are in touch with their instincts about the right thing to do in the absence of supporting information. A leader who trusts their gut takes calculated risks. They are able to make decisions even without all the information, and they inspire others to trust their judgement. Great leadership is about having the confidence to make decisions and not second guess them. Those who inspire to follow into the unknown, do so possessing self-confidence and they are great judges of character without being judgemental. Such leaders cultivate strengths in their team members and help them get to the point where they’re confident and capable to lead others.


Are you flexible to changes on your team and within your organisation? Are you resilient when confronted with difficulty? Adaptability is a key trait of emotionally intelligent leaders. Whether you are dealing with an interpersonal conflict between team members or poor performance, leaders need to be able to quickly respond to new and changing information. They also need to be able to respond to change with humility and compassion. An emotionally intelligent leader has the ability to cope up with uncertainty and imperfection. They can handle all kinds of situations whether it’s about managing an indisciplined subordinate or a high demanding job. They do this by appealing to reason and acknowledging others’ feelings, thus enable people to feel that the decisions make sense. Emotionally intelligent leaders show flexibility and adapt constantly.


Do you truly love what you do? Are your goals in line with your current aspirations? Are you able to calm yourself down when you’re upset, or cheer yourself up when you’re down? Are you able to motivate others? This brings us to internal motivation as Daniel Goleman describes it, “a passion for work that goes beyond money and status.” Effective leaders are passionate about what they do, and they show it. The positive emotion of the leader elevates the team’s emotional state, and inspires members to perform with more enthusiasm. They harness that motivation toward increasing performance and overall results. They are not weighted down by negative emotions as anger, hate, or jealousy. Just like adaptability, optimism is critical for leaders to motivate and uplift a team to give their best. Good leaders are highly optimistic and believe in the inevitability of success. Emotionally intelligent leaders are more motivated to face situations with confidence.


Do teammates confide in you? Do employees feel comfortable bringing concerns to you when they arise? Leadership is about creating an environment of mutual trust where team members feel supported and comfortable. Research suggests that 8 out of 10 people don’t trust leaders. Emotionally intelligent leaders are authentic. Leaders who show their emotions and vulnerability are also better at connecting with many employees on an emotional level. Such leaders don’t have one set of guidelines for when people are watching them, and another for when they are alone. Their words match their actions. They genuinely care about people and the people they lead can feel their sincerity. If you pretend to care about other people, they won’t respond much to your interest. If you actually care, they will open up to you. If you are faking it, the people around you see through that.

Effective Communication Skills

Leaders possessing high emotional intelligence are good communicators. Leadership has been described as a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common goal. Therefore, two way communication is key to leadership success. Once a person is able to manage the thought process, being articulate comes naturally. Clarity in stating a thought or directive gives employees the ability to understand what is expected of them. They also know that communication keeps people motivated and connected. Great leaders are able to communicate their vision in such a way that it motivates their team. They are great communicators; quick to listen and slow to speak. They practice intuitive listening which is crucial to gaining a complete understanding of situations. The skill of intuitive listening is the heartbeat of all communication. Great leaders function at this level and they listen beyond what is being said.

Sense of Humour

Humour is a great way to win over and influence a team. It minimizes status distinctions between leaders and followers, and encourages interaction. If a leader is serious all the time, then it creates a very austere environment. Some leaders are afraid to relax, because they want to be taken seriously. It’s usually a sign of insecurity. An emotionally intelligent leader presents balance. Leaders who use humour allow people to feel comfortable around them. It is humanizing and puts others at ease. Leaders who use humour tend to be much more approachable than the person who never laughs. The more approachable you are, especially as a leader, the more comfortable people will feel around you. Humour acts as a catalyst to influence and inspire others. It helps foster an upbeat atmosphere that encourages interaction, engagement, brainstorming and creative thinking. All of which leads to greater productivity.

Professional Development

Do you encourage team members to learn and cultivate new skills? Do you help team members identify strengths and target areas of improvement? Do you deliver constructive feedback? Leaders are continuous learners and encourage their team to do the same. Leaders with low emotional intelligence may be hesitant to train people well, since this could mean losing them as a team member or far worse them taking their position. Emotionally intelligent leaders put the interest of their team first. They can prioritize the development of others over their own desire to have the best team possible. Such leaders’ help employees identify talents, improve strengths and support employee developmental efforts.

Emotional Intelligence is a critical skill for leaders who want to inspire and motivate a team. Set a good example, praise in public, criticize in private, respect your employees’ capabilities, give credit where credit is due, and learn to delegate. If the leader is unable to empathize with their employees, they will surely find it difficult to obtain respect or loyalty.


The Future of Leadership by Brigette Hyacinth


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