HR, Thought Leaders

3 Qualities of Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

December 2, 2019

by Bhavik Sarkhedi

Founder, Write Right

Emotional intelligence is a quality everyone should look for in a leader. To spot an emotionally intelligent individual, look for someone emotionally strong, empathetic, and socially aware. 

As people move up the ladder of success in their careers, the experience they gain makes them proficient in the technicalities of their field while developing Intelligence Quotient (IQ). What remains untouched, however, is their interpersonal skills with their peers and other staff.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) has become an important skill for leaders who want to develop effective and healthy relationships with themselves and their team. 

As a soft skill, emotional intelligence is determined by interactions with colleagues rather than knowledge or other technical skills.

The most popular definition of EQ is the ability to regulate personal emotions and manage the emotions and reactions of others in a healthy way. 

The image shows that there is no gender bias when it comes to EQ. Men and women in the United States have almost exactly the same EQ.

eq results by gender for north america


The differences in the two scores are not statistically significant, which shows that anyone can be an emotionally intelligent leader if given the right tools. Use this article to identify the ideal candidate for your company.

3 Qualities of Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

  1. Emotional strength
  2. Empathy
  3. Social awareness

1. Emotional Strength

When a person knows how to handle, recognize, and channel emotions effectively, that person is emotionally strong.

To succeed as a leader, it becomes imperative to learn to manage your emotions, control your impulses, and have a clear mind in every situation.

The diagram below from PositivePsychology describes the ability to self-regulate is a critical component for emotionally intelligent leaders.

emotional strength diagarm recognition regulation social personal competence

Personal and social competence are closely linked to the ability to recognize and regulate yourself and others.

Emotionally intelligent leaders are able to recognize their emotions and regulate them accordingly.

An emotionally weak person will always be under emotional pressure. He will be defensive and aggressive if pointed out. Such behavior can cause tension in a discussion.

Leaders Can Improve Emotional Strength

Leaders looking to improve their ability to self-regulate should try to understand what things push their internal buttons. 

For example, what makes them nervous or angry? What brings their temper to the tipping point? 

By understanding these basic things about themselves, leaders can learn to control and use emotions to their advantage.

Leaders should also recognize and label emotions under certain circumstances to deal with them more easily.

If they monitor their emotions when certain triggers are presented, they are forced out of their comfort zone. 

Leaders should be careful not to make mood-based decisions and instead look at the bigger picture. 

Hiring an Emotionally Strong Manager

Have your human resources team ask your next candidate the following questions to determine their emotional strength:

  • Can you tell me about a time when you were wronged? How did you react?
  • How do you respond to an embarrassing or annoying situation?

Observe their body language and word choice while they describe their experience. This will reveal more about how they handle emotionally charged situations and allow you to determine their ability to self-regulate.

When people can identify their emotions and keep them in check, it gives them a clear, unbiased view of any situation. This makes leaders more focused and attentive.

People can learn to self-regulate when they understand their emotional triggers and how to manage them. 

2. Empathy

A successful manager deals with their own emotions but also seeks to understand what other people are going through.

Empathy can be described as the ability to be able to feel what another person is feeling. 

Empathetic leaders are able to put aside their own emotions, thoughts, and feelings to focus on the feelings of the other person. This improves communication with teammates and develops trust.

Leaders must recognize and understand another person's emotions and guide them to meet challenges with a positive attitude.

When a leader is also an empath, he can leverage the emotions of his/her employees and using his emotional intelligence, he can give proper direction to the situation via a powerful communication.

Hiring an Empathetic Manager

To hire an empathetic manager, you should look out for:

  • Body language
  • Manner of speaking

Empathetic leaders will express interest in the lives of others by asking questions.

They will also demonstrate an ability to put themselves in others’ shoes to understand different experiences.

3. Social Awareness

Socially aware leaders understand their social environment and address the emotions involved in it. 

A poorly-interpreted environment can result in awkward situations and can even hurt people. 

Socially aware leaders demonstrate active listening skills. They interpret circumstances around them and come up with clear answers.

To be socially aware, words and actions should not alienate people. Make people feel welcome and wanted within your organization. 

Socially aware leaders motivate, inspire and guide their teams by creating an environment of mutual respect.

They steer employees towards necessary changes while avoiding clashes and disagreements. 

When a manager sets an example as a mentor, motivator, and guide, he earns the respect of the entire team.

Hiring Socially Aware Managers

Ask your next candidate the following questions to assess their social awareness:

  • Tell me about a time you helped a teammate? 
  • How would you resolve a disagreement between teammates?

Questions like these can help you identify a socially aware leader.

The Best Leaders Are Emotionally Intelligent

Hiring an emotionally intelligent leader can improve your team’s morale and improve the chances of business growth. 

It is a need for all the industries to have an emotionally intelligent leader who is aware of his own emotions and is present to another person’s feelings. 

A clear thought process of the team, unbiased decisions, and prospective growth are the rewards of hiring an emotionally intelligent manager.

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