5 Characteristics of the Emotionally Intelligent Leader

“There is no separation of mind and emotions; emotions, thinking, and learning are all linked.” – Eric Jensen. 

Sometimes disparagingly referred to as a “soft skill,” emotional intelligence is one of the most important outer-core leadership competencies. Emotions affect the decisions of every single employee and person in a leadership position. Emotionally intelligent people recognize the role of this emotional “filter” and they may even be able to manipulate it to some extent.

Emotional intelligence gives you far better insights into everything in life.

An emotionally intelligent person adjusts his/her behavior according to the circumstances and to the emotional responses, he/she may want to elicit from interlocutors. Emotionally intelligent leaders are, therefore, typically better than their emotionally impaired peers.

We all possess a natural proclivity to recognize emotional intelligence. We may, however, find it difficult to quantify and define.

What are some of the hallmarks of emotionally intelligent leaders?


Self-aware leaders know themselves, know how they react to certain emotional stimuli, and they can control their reactions. With its roots in self-knowledge, self-awareness allows leaders to account for the weight their emotions and thoughts carry in their decision-making.

Self-aware people are also better at gauging the reactions of other people to certain stimuli. Thus, they can control the reactions of others to some degree adopting a proactive approach to dealing with various situations.


The same way self-awareness traces its roots to self-knowledge, self-regulation stems from self-awareness. A leader who is capable of weighing the impact of his/her actions is much more likely to attempt to manage this impact, at the very least.

A leader capable of self-management can control and redirect various moods and emotions. In addition to self-control, self-management also covers:

  • The ability to adhere to standards of integrity and honesty
  • Taking responsibility for one’s deeds and performance
  • Adapting to change effectively
  • Growing comfortable with learning new things and being open to new ideas


One of the reasons why emotional intelligence is a focal point of leadership development is that it is the main source of motivation. Motivation is the drive/emotional state that helps people to attain certain goals. It too is a multi-component variable, consisting of:

  • Achievement drive
  • The alignment of one’s goals and values with those of the organization
  • Eagerness to exploit opportunities
  • Resilience and persistence

Motivation prompts leaders to take a proactive approach to various challenges.


Empathy is the ability to place oneself in the shoes of others. An essential component of emotional intelligence, empathy allows leaders to understand the concerns and developmental needs of employees/peers. By tapping into the emotional states of others, empathetic leaders can adapt their emotional reactions and decision making to their environment.

Empathy is the key to superior situational awareness. 

Communication and Social Skills

Leadership development focuses on communication and social skills for a good reason. It is the “secret ingredient” of emotional intelligence, the piece that meshes everything together into a whole that works.

Some of the key components of social skills are:

  • Ability to induce favorable outcomes through persuasion
  • Listening and communicating clearly
  • Inspiring teams through example and guidance
  • Cooperating effectively with others
  • Building group synergy and working toward shared goals

Leadership coaching can develop all of the mentioned skills/emotional intelligence components. In the context of effective leadership coaching, emotional intelligence is far more than a “soft skill.” It is one of the cornerstones of intelligent leadership and the environment that nurtures excellence.

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