How Leaders Can Become More Emotionally Intelligent

Being a strong leader involves being an effective relationship builder. To develop meaningful connections with others we need to have the ability to read our own emotions accurately as well as recognize the emotions in our team members, colleagues and networks. In fact, some of us are so unaware of how we may be feeling in a particular situation that it is very difficult to respond appropriately to actions or behaviors we see. And then what happens? We do something or say something that we wish we hadn’t done or said.

Has this ever happened to you? So many of the leaders I partner with face this challenge daily either because they or the people they work with have low EQ . But here’s the great news!

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) can be nourished and developed. EQ is a skill that can be learned and practiced.

Are you ready to build up your leadership EQ? Here are some ways to begin:


To become more emotionally intelligent we need to understand how we are feeling when we are in a stressful situation. How do we do this? First look for the physical symptoms- sweating, faster heart beat, clenching teeth, yelling, pounding headache. Are you raising your voice or even screaming? These feelings of anger and frustration are telling you that maybe you need to step back a bit and start breathing in a more paced way.

Related: Show What's in It for Them! Five Ways to Lead With Authority

When leaders take hold of their EQ they tune into their emotions.


Next step is carefully observing and listening to what is going on around us. Ask yourself:

  • What is making me so upset or angry?
  • Am I reading the situation properly or making assumptions?
  • How is the other person reacting or feeling? Why might that be?
  • What words are being shared? Am I hearing the words accurately?

    A leader with high EQ knows that there are many different perspectives to every encounter. That essentially means we owe it to ourselves and to others to stay open-minded, knowing there may be several solutions to any given problem. Let’s say a team member comes up with an alternative approach to dealing with an issue and it’s not the way you may want to go but it works. Let your EQ guide you by allowing someone else to solve the dilemma. We don’t need to always have it our way. By empowering a team member to speak up and feel proud of their contribution we are building relationships and trust.


    To cultivate higher EQ skills, leaders continually ask for input from others and take note how it is being shared .

  • Is our team member excited to share their findings? This may mean they are feeling accomplished.
  • Is our co-worker speaking softly and not communicating clearly what is happening? This may mean they are feeling insecure and may need support and guidance.
  • Is our boss losing their cool and barking out directions? This may mean we need to ask for clarification and stay calm and understanding.
  • Leaders with high EQ continually decode what is being communicated.

    Related: Six Ways to Turn an Unlikely Opportunity Into an Empowering Move


    The best way to cultivate leadership EQ is to practice observing your physical reactions in stressful situations and keying into your feelings. Then apply what you did facing your emotions to gain control with the next similar situation. It’s a process but one that can be mastered by any leader eager to grow their EQ.

    How have you developed your leadership EQ? What techniques did you find helpful? Would you like help raising your leadership EQ?