8 Signs of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

We often write about artificial intelligence on this website. AI might make some people excited while others may be slightly concerned about it taking their jobs. There is also a concern that AI will eventually take over the world.

I’m going to ask you to put a pin in the discussion of AI so we can talk about emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is a term used to describe a person’s ability to understand and manage their own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. While emotional intelligence doesn’t need bots or machine learning to be successful, it can still have a significant impact on a person’s job, success, and happiness at work. We are all aware that success is not simply about what we know, it is also about how we cooperate with the people around us. Other people will a have a big influence on whether you get promoted, get a new job, or have other opportunities arise.

In this post, we’ll run through a quick review of emotional intelligence — what it is, why it’s important, and how to be an emotionally intelligent leader at work.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

The term “emotional intelligence” was first coined in 1990 by two behavioral researchers, Peter Salavoy and John Mayer. It was popularized more broadly by Daniel Goleman in his 1996 book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

This definition of emotional intelligence describes the ability to be aware of and understand both your own emotions and the emotions of others, as well as being able to use that information to make decisions.

So, what does that mean, in plain English?

Emotional intelligence refers to your ability to handle emotions — your own, and those of others. Having emotional intelligence means being able to identify and understand your emotions, as well as having the ability to control them and help others to do the same. These people skills can be just as important to professional and personal success as technical skills.

There is no association between a high level of cognitive intelligence and a high level of emotional intelligence. Psychologist Daniel Goleman thinks that the measurement of IQ is too restrictive and doesn’t accurately reflect if an individual will be successful, in their career or life in general. Goleman believes that other abilities, such as self-control, are better predictors of success than IQ.

Goleman and Dr. Richard Boyatzis created a framework of behavioral qualities that demonstrate emotional intelligence. In this post, we’ll explore 10 of these behaviors that leaders can use to show emotional intelligence and foster in their teams.

Qualities That Demonstrate Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

A person’s emotional intelligence is what drives their performance in both their personal and professional life. The journey to increasing your emotional intelligence begins with taking a look at yourself. People who can manage their emotions well tend to be successful in many areas of their life. This is because they tend to be confident, optimistic, and have good social skills and self-control.


Do you react well to change within your team and organization? Are you resilient when confronted with conflict and difficulty? Do you have the ability to manage the expectations and needs of both your superiors and subordinates at a fast pace?

Adaptability is a key trait of emotionally intelligent leaders. Leaders need to be able to react quickly to new and changing information, whether it’s a bad month of metrics, an interpersonal conflict between team members, or a company crisis that requires an all-hands response. Changes, even those that aren’t ideal, need to be approached with compassion and diplomacy. If you tend to hold a grudge, get emotional over small things, or complain often, you might have low emotional intelligence. This can lead to low morale and be counterproductive.

Leaders should be emotionally intelligent and adaptable, encouraging teams to present constructive feedback in team meetings or 1:1s. It is also important for leaders to identify any potential problems that could come with changes and to encourage team members to come up with solutions and ways to overcome these issues.


Can you encourage your co-workers and subordinates to be productive and work hard? Are you able to make a joke or have a positive outlook on a difficult situation in order to change the mood? Can you help a person with a negative outlook see things from a different perspective?

Optimism is an important quality for leaders to have so that they can motivate and encourage their team during difficult times at work. Now, optimism doesn’t mean you’re relentlessly positive, no matter what. It means you can see the bigger picture of a difficult situation or bad mood and keep moving forward instead of getting bogged down in negativity.

As a leader, you should encourage your team to consider all aspects of a problem in order to gain a well-rounded perspective, be creative in finding solutions to challenges, and help them identify these solutions when they are struggling to do so themselves.


Do you try to identify problems before they happen so you can solve them? Do you volunteer to help make things better for your friends and teammates? If not, you may be creating a poisonous environment. If you don’t always follow up on conflicts and questions brought to you by team members, you may be creating a poisonous environment. Do you not only complete the asks of your role but look for ways to improve the existing results?

Leaders who are emotionally intelligent are usually able and willing to take initiative. Failing to do more than the minimum required can come across as being uninterested or uncaring.

Leaders with a high emotional intelligence seek out ways to improve and excel- and that includes helping team members take initiative too. The leaders should help the team members to confidence and capability to take initiative. Some other examples of things you can do to be a team player at work are volunteering to take on extra work, working on team projects, or just helping others out with tasks they’re struggling to complete.

Conflict Resolution

Do you moderate interpersonal conflict discretely and effectively? Can you help team members come to a resolution when there are disagreements or clashing priorities in a respectful way? Do you speak up for your team to make sure everyone feels supported and heard?

There is bound to be conflict among colleagues even if they are close friends. In times of conflict, it is important for leaders to help find solutions that everyone can agree on. This means taking into account everyone’s feelings and finding a resolution that everyone is happy with.

leaders who are emotionally intelligent should give their team members plenty of chances to talk things out- whether in person, over the phone, or on a video call. This way, issues can be resolved and challenges can be discussed before they turn into negative emotions and dissatisfaction. Leaders should provide team members with the tools and resources they need to handle conflict, implement new processes, and be adaptable to change in order to prevent future problems. The best way a leader can resolve conflict sometimes is by listens to a team member’s complaints and letting them get the problem off their chest.

Tips for Improving Emotional Intelligence

We follow some of these tips ourselves, while others have been revealed to us by our amazing clients and partners who know how to motivate and inspire their teams–but most importantly, themselves.

Practice observing how you feel

We can get so wrapped up in work and other obligations that we forget to check in with how we’re feeling. This can lead to us feeling disconnected from our emotions and out of touch with ourselves. Setting a timer for various points throughout the day can help you stay connected. When you’re done with the timer, take a few deep breaths and check in with yourself emotionally. Be aware of where in your body you feel the emotion and what the sensation is like. The more you practice, the more it will become part of your everyday routine.

Pay attention to how you behave

In addition to practicing your emotional awareness, also take notice of your behavior. It can be helpful to notice how your behavior changes when you’re feeling different emotions. Doing this can help you understand how emotions affect your life on a day-to-day basis. Once we become more aware of how we react to our emotions, it becomes easier to manage them.

Question your own opinions

An opinion bubble is when someone only surrounds themselves with people who have similar opinions to their own, usually without them even realizing it. This can lead to a distorted view of the world and a lack of understanding for people who have different opinions. If you find yourself in an echo chamber, it means you’re only being exposed to ideas and opinions that match your own. It is important to read different perspectives on stories and to have your views challenged, even if you still believe your original views are correct. Being open-minded will help you better understand others and be more willing to try new things.

Take responsibility for your feelings

Your emotions and behavior are under your control and not influenced by anyone else. Accepting this responsibility can improve all areas of your life.

Take time to celebrate the positive

An important aspect of emotional intelligence is taking the time to celebrate and reflect on the happy moments in life. Positive emotions lead to increased resilience, better relationships, and the ability to overcome difficult situations.

But don’t ignore the negative

Negative feelings should not be ignored, but rather acknowledged and reflected on. Just as it is important to reflect on positive feelings, it is just as important to reflect on negative ones. It is important to understand why you feel negative emotions in order to become a well-rounded individual who can more effectively deal with future challenges.

Don’t forget to breathe

Stress is a normal part of life that we all experience. Life throws various situations our way and most of us experience some sort of stress regularly. When you are feeling emotional, it is important to remember to breathe. This will help you to avoid outbursts and to manage your emotions. Take a break to calm down and think about what’s happening and how you want to respond.

A lifetime process

Emotional intelligence does not come naturally, and it takes a lot of effort to improve. You need to constantly work at it to make any progress.

Learn to look at yourself objectively

It’s difficult to know yourself completely, and it’s almost impossible to look at yourself objectively. So it’s important to get input from people who know you. Talk to the people around you and ask them what they think your strengths and weaknesses are. Write down what they say and compare their answers to see if they are similar. Look for patterns and remember that the other person is not necessarily right, but is trying to help you understand their perspective.

Keep a diary

You can get an accurate measure of yourself by keeping a diary. Every day, write down what happened to you, how you felt about it, and how you coped. Noting down specifics like these will help you become more aware of your actions and will point out any potential issues. Take note of any patterns or trends in your comments over time.

Understand what motivates you

When starting a project, everyone has a main motivating factor. When difficulties arise, it can be hard to keep this motivating force in mind. People often start projects but fail to complete them because they lose their motivation. Make sure you know what motivates you before you start working towards a goal. Having this knowledge will help push you to achieve your goal.

Take it easy

Sometimes we have emotional outbursts because we don’t take the time to stop and think about how we’re feeling. Make time for yourself to relax and escape from reality. Do things that make you happy and help you destress. And then see if you can notice what you’re feeling. Next time you feel an emotion, try to pause and notice what you’re feeling.

Acknowledge your emotional triggers

Self-aware individuals can recognize their emotions as they occur. You should be able to adjust your emotions to match the situation you are in. Be honest with your emotions during stage time, but don’t be rigid with them. Take the time to process your emotions before communicating them.

Predict how you will feel

Try to imagine a situation you may find yourself in and try to predict how you would feel in that situation. Naming the feeling allows you to be in control. Try to control your reaction to the feeling rather than just reacting to it.

Trust your intuition

If you don’t know what to do next, listen to your gut. Your subconscious has been learning which path to take throughout your entire life.

Maintain a schedule (and stick to it!)

If you want to complete tasks effectively, you need to create a schedule and stick to it.


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