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Posted by on May 16, 2019

Four Characteristics of an Emotionally Intelligent Leader

Four Characteristics of an Emotionally Intelligent Leader

The value of Emotional Intelligence (EI), or “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others,” is increasingly being used as a cognitive leadership tool to enhance the effectiveness of communication in the public and private sectors. In our recent webinar, Emotional Intelligence, The Use of Emotional Intelligence for Effective Relationships, we defined EI and described ways it impacts our daily lives. Let’s take a closer look at four of the characteristics that are common among emotionally intelligent leaders and explore steps we can take to improve our own EI as leaders:

1. Self-awareness
Nonverbal communication is extremely important. Have you ever been cut off or interrupted? You’d be surprised at how your posture, eye contact, and personal space affect the way you are perceived. Sitting up straight or standing while you’re talking to someone and making direct eye contact ensures that the person you are speaking to stays engaged. These simple strategies go a long way toward commanding respect with in-person interactions.

2. Self-management
Have you ever let your emotions get the best of you at work? Do others see you in a closed-off posture, with folded arms, or even crying? Take a deep breath and think about what triggered your emotional response. Write it down. Once you become aware of your triggers, you’ll be able to recognize when situations occur that make you take a step back and reflect before approaching the situation with emotional clarity.

3. Social Awareness
When involved in a disagreement, instead of immediately voicing your point-of-view, ask the other person follow-up questions such as: “Can you tell me how you came up with this solution?”, “What other options were explored?”, or “What is the source of the data?” Posing thoughtful questions will help you communicate more effectively. After you gain an understanding of the other person’s perspective, you can confidently voice your opinions using phrases such as, “Let me share with you…” or “You have a valid point, and…”

4. Relationship Management
How do you tell a coworker or employee that their performance is sub-par? The concern isn’t whether or not to give feedback, but when and how it is given. If the person is your employee, the feedback may be delivered during a performance evaluation. However, you should not start these conversations off by saying, “Here are issues I have with your performance” as if that’s the only reason for your discussion. Rather, lead with a positive sentiment such as, “What are some areas you’d like to focus on improving?” Then you can serve as a coach or mentor and avoid having your feedback being perceived as a threat. Provide as much context as possible, stick to the facts, and avoid getting personal. Be sure that the person always knows why the feedback is being given.

For leaders, the pursuit of mastering emotional intelligence should never end. Having “the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others” is crucial when building relationships in the workplace and beyond.

Ron Holloway, MBA is a community advocate, author, and speaker who strives to change lives and inspire others to do the same. He developed a focus on leadership while training personnel in the US Navy.


  1. Perhaps the most crucial skill needed to exercise quality emotional intelligence is the ability to listen. Listening is as art that can be acquired even by those who are not inclined nor have the practice of listening. If a leader can not master that skill, he/she will most certainly fail.

    • That’s is very true. Listening is a skill most do very poorly; it’s a prerequisite to be successful.

  2. Self-awareness is essential. I dare say it is the most critical skill a person can have, and it’s not just about body language, but in all aspects of interacting with others. Self-inventory, self-discovery is the cornerstone for success in any organization. The tone of voice you use; the way in which you respond to emails; the people you routinely include on committees and working groups (or the people you exclude from these groups); your decision-making processes; and your general communication styles all can have an impact on how others perceive you. Something as simple as being personable plays a role too. Little things like that mean a lot.

  3. This is good. I’d say the most important one is the first one, Self-awareness – and not just in our body language and non-verbal cues but also in how we treat others and our response to the way in which people treat us. We cannot grow effectively if we do not take time to undergo deep levels of introspection and really get to know ourselves. It is something we need to do frequently throughout our lives, as most of us change from one period in our lives to others.

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