What’s the Connection Between Emotional Intelligence and Leadership?

You have certainly heard of emotional intelligence—and you certainly want to be the best leader you can be—so what is the connection between the two? What makes an emotionally intelligent leader?

A model of emotional intelligence that I adapted from Dr. Reuven BarOn and Dr. Ben Palmer's work—two well-known authors in the emotional intelligence field—includes these six emotional intelligence competencies:

  1. Emotional self-awareness

  2. Social awareness

  3. Authentic interactions

  4. Reasoning with emotions

  5. Self-management

  6. Inspiring others

These six competencies, deployed at the right time, with the preferred level of intensity, will lead others to express you are an emotionally intelligent leader.


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Why is it called "emotional" intelligence?

Our emotions influence the quality of our decisions, behavior and performance—for better or for worse. Utilizing these competencies in a productive "intelligent" manner leads to others seeing the leader as a "star."

When my colleagues and I coach managers and leaders one of our goals is to help leaders increase the "productive" use of their emotions so that their decisions, behavior and performance are functioning at a higher quality.

Emotionally intelligent leaders are aware of their emotions and understand how their emotions impact their decisions, their behavior, their interactions with others and their performance. An emotionally intelligent leader is empathetic to other people and understands what leads other people to feel what they do, use their emotional knowledge to make important decisions, control their emotions as needed and use emotional information and expression of their emotions to connect with their teams and inspire peak performance in others.

We also coach our clients to dial down the "unproductive" use of their emotions. Initially, this typically looks like being out of touch with one's emotions or ignoring the information that emotions could provide to self-management or relationship success. A common impact of not paying attention to one's emotions is having blindspots to how emotions might cause them to direct blame inappropriately, make rash decisions, and appear insensitive and uncaring to others. The impact of a leader who is out of touch with how his or her feelings may affect their management style may lead to a culture of unconfident, insecure or bitter employees.

These elements of self-awareness are the foundation of emotionally intelligent leadership. Leaders and employees who are emotionally self-aware are better able to manage their feelings and are best equipped to manage themselves during times of stress, urgent deadlines and high-stake decisions. In other words, the leader's emotional competence contributes to his or her level of management performance and leadership competence.

An emotionally intelligent leader is invaluable in the workplace, especially in workplace cultures that are heavily reliant on the ability to communicate and work well with others and in teams.