Three Ways Leaders Use Emotional Intelligence to Make a Difference

For many years, the broadly-accepted marker for potential leadership success was IQ (Intelligence Quotient). Entire educational systems and many parenting styles were based on academic achievement, in deference to the assumption that successful people had the highest IQ. Studies in the last few decades, however, have shown that it is not only IQ, but, rather, EQ (Emotional Quotient) that most dramatically affects the leadership success chart. This has become known as Emotional Intelligence (EI).

So what is emotional Intelligence? Emotional intelligence is the skill and ability to perceive, understand, manage and express emotions to enhance thought. In leadership, it is the ability to identify one's own emotions and understand the emotional makeup and reactions of others and use it to effectively motivate, problem-solve and innovate. It is the underlying skill behind building relationships, collaboration and rapport in ways to effectively lead teams and drive change. 

Research has found that the most successful leaders score high on their emotional intelligence.   However a high percentage of people who get promoted into leadership end up focusing on metrics and the hard skills. They enter an environment that makes them lose touch with their emotional intelligence and the emotional state of people around them.

  • They tend to withhold any emotion
  • They do not acknowledge other people's emotions
  • They rid themselves from feeling any empathy
  • The pressure and stress impact their emotional behavior
  • They spend less time in meaningful interactions with their team
  • They lose the human connection that creates the bonds in relationships

Emotional Intelligence has to do with self-awareness of one's emotions, the emotions of others and the ability to use that emotion to promote productive thinking.

Here are three ways leaders use emotional intelligence to make a difference: 

Start by Understanding Thyself

A good dose of humility, for the successful leader of today needs to be aware of their own frailties at the same time they are mastering the arts of persuasion and motivation. Another word for this is “self-awareness,” a skill indicative of the emotionally intelligent leader.

These leaders know their own weaknesses and trigger points. They also know when to trust their intuition. The emotionally intelligent leader is not afraid to acknowledge they have something to learn. They have been known to be persuaded with an opposing argument, because their pride doesn’t overtake their ability to see beyond the personal. These leaders motivate by their willingness to look at themselves with a critical eye. 

The result is that people are inspired to do more than they thought they could. If the leader is willing to grow and learn, then so are they. The emotionally-intelligent leader is a role model who encourages people to see beyond their own flaws, stretching their perceived limits.

Choose Teamwork First

People trust those with a high degree of emotional intelligence. They may not label it as "emotional intelligence", but anyone recognizes when someone takes the time to understand positions and interests, even when they are in opposition to their view.

This requires the capacity to understand the sometimes confusing and often complex factors driving people’s actions and reactions. A leader who takes some extra time to probe more deeply, especially when trying to uncover the underlying interests beneath espoused positions, can reap exponential benefits from a team. It takes patience and a great deal of empathy, both of which are skills inherent in a person with a high degree of emotional intelligence.

If the leader focuses on choosing teamwork first, rather than pushing to get their own outcome, the conversation and teamwork dynamic immediately becomes more productive. Once people are aware of and able to control their own emotional response to an issue, replacing it with active listening skills that allow others to feel comfortable to verbalize their opinions, teamwork is much more likely to succeed.

When the team trusts that the emotionally intelligent leader has the best possible outcome as their goal, they often then become willing participants in the vision as a result.

Empower Others

Having high emotional intelligence allows the best leaders to let others shine before them. These leaders have the big picture in mind at all times. For them, any accolades of the moment are just that – in the moment. If they notice others would benefit in any way from being in the spotlight, the emotionally intelligent leader not only steps back, but often assists in shining their light.

Ironically, at the same time the leader seems to give the power to another, they are gaining more themselves. This would be a dangerous position for a leader without emotional intelligence. With EI comes the ability to balance the potential onslaught of admiration with a generous helping of the humility mentioned earlier.

Thankfully, in contrast to IQ, emotional intelligence isn’t a static trait. Humility, self-awareness, the ability to understand, empathize, and build relationships are significantly important in becoming a better leader. Emotional intelligence skills are at once familiar, challenging, and requisite for the successful leader of today. 


rania-kortRania Kort is an Independent Management Consultant and Business Advisor with more than 20 years’ experience helping Fortune 100 companies successfully implement strategic initiatives. Rania has managed large-scale programs and programs, established and run PMO's and implemented process improvement in many different industries. She ran and grew an IT Management Practice for PricewaterhouseCoopers for more than seven years managing over 300 consultants.  Currently, she serves as an independent consultant focusing on achieving results through collaboration and a team leadership approach that ensures alignment, accountability and trust to develop high-performance teams.

If you would like to contact me, I can be reached either through my contact page or through LinkedIn.