What is Emotionally Intelligent Leadership?


In the last couple of years, there’s been a lot of buzz about emotional intelligence. It’s not new, but you’d think it is, based on the buzz. It applies to all aspects of life, really, and can be especially important in leadership. That begs the question what is emotionally intelligent leadership? What does it look like? And why should you care?

What is it?

Being emotionally intelligent means we operate with an increased awareness of how our emotions are impacting us and those around us. Our emotions impact decision-making, word choices, and behavior in general. When we raise our emotional intelligence, we not only understand what’s happening but are better equipped to do something about it.

It would naturally follow then that emotionally intelligent leadership means applying that understanding and intention to how we lead.

What does it look like in practice?

I’m sure there’s some variation here because context always matters. But there are definitely some trends. When we practice emotionally intelligent leadership, we’re better able to manage stress. We’re able to connect with people more deeply. We’re able to communicate more effectively.

Rather than taking out frustration about a mistake you’ve just made on a colleague who had nothing to do with it, you’re better able to separate the two things and behave accordingly.

Rather than yelling at everyone on your team for missing a project deadline, you’re able to explore with them what happened and problem-solve to find a solution.

Why should you care?

That’s a little bit misleading because, of course, you are the only one who can decide that you care. I care about it because I’ve experienced leaders who practice it and leaders who don’t. The difference is stark. The ones who don’t practice emotionally intelligent leadership make me feel like I’m always a little off-balance. It’s just plain stressful.

Emotionally intelligent leadership means we’re behaving in ways that foster a more productive, emotionally safe, and positive work environment. Productivity goes up under those circumstances, and turnover goes down. In the end, it just makes more sense.

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