3 Ways to Lead with Emotional Intelligence & Heart

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3 Ways to Lead with Emotional Intelligence & Heart

Emotional intelligence is at the core of great leadership. Exceptional leaders lead emotionally and from the heart.

Consider that very rarely, if ever, do employees cite technical skills and abilities as attributes of strong leaders. Instead, employees value leaders who listen to them, are available, involve them, make them feel like they belong, motivate and engage them, and make them feel valued and appreciated. All of these behaviors result from emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of, manage, and evaluate emotions. Leaders with emotional intelligence have the ability to monitor their own and others' feelings and emotions and use them to make decisions. Daniel Goleman, a popular author and researcher in the field of emotional intelligence, identified five domains of emotional intelligence:

  • Knowing your emotions
  • Managing your emotions
  • Motivating yourself
  • Recognizing and understanding others' emotions
  • Managing the emotions of others

Here are 3 ways that great leaders lead with emotional intelligence and heart in their workplaces.

1. They are aware of how they impact others.

Leaders who have high emotional intelligence are self-aware. They recognize their own emotions, why they are feeling the way they do, and most importantly, the impact of their emotions and behavior on those around them, namely their employees.

They are exceptional at managing their emotions appropriately so that they affect others more positively than negatively. They have strong communication skills, choosing the right messages, tones, and body language to convey their thoughts and ideas. They establish and build strong relationships with employees characterized by trust and professional intimacy.

2. They focus on and are concerned about others.

Emotionally intelligent leaders are focused on others. They balance their head with their heart -- that is logic and reasoning with care and compassion. They are concerned about others' needs as much as, if not more than, their own.

For emotionally intelligent leaders, leading is all about empathy. They work on understanding what their staff may be feeling and thinking in various situations. They have the ability to "emotionally read" their staff. They are attentive to, understand, and appreciate the feelings of their employees.

When making decisions and leading change, they try to view things from their employees' perspective. They put themselves in their employees' shoes and attempt to experience what they are feeling to understand their desires and needs and make good decisions.

3. They positively influence others.

Emotionally intelligent leaders influence others positively through expressing their own emotions, and by managing others' emotions effectively.

Emotionally intelligent leaders show emotion, but demonstrate restraint when revealing their emotions, expressing them in a manner that is controlled and that doesn't make others feel uncomfortable or afraid.

Similarly, they know how to manage employees' emotions and impact them positively to make their staff feel inspired, motivated, and engaged. They uncover what employees are feeling and thinking, and manage these insights to lead them more successfully.  


The key to leading in a more emotionally intelligent way is others - recognizing your effect on, focusing on, and positively influencing others - your employees. Emotionally intelligent leaders are others-centered. How can you cultivate more emotionally intelligent leaders? Here are some tips...

  • Hire based on it. Ask questions that screen for emotional intelligence. Hire leaders that genuinely care about others and that have strong interpersonal skills. Use psychological assessments to help evaluate emotional intelligence.
  • Provide training. Emotional intelligence training (and training on other soft skills) helps leaders understand the importance of emotional intelligence and gives them practical strategies to build self awareness, manage others' emotions, and build quality relationships.
  • Encourage self-awareness. Encourage more self-awareness among your leadership team through coaching, feedback, and leadership team exercises. Use of 360 feedback or other employee feedback can also help.
  • Make it the norm. Make emotional intelligence and leading from the heart the norm in your workplace. Set expectations with leaders regarding how they are to manage their own emotions and their employees'. Hold them accountable for caring and sensitive behaviors.
  • Practice makes perfect. As Goleman says, the best EI training is real life experience. Practicing emotional intelligence helps you acquire skills.

Emotionally intelligent leaders have tremendous heart and they earn their followers through empathy, self-awareness, inspiration, and positive connections with others. In this tumultuous business environment where emotions run high, organizations need to cultivate more emotionally intelligent leaders who are committed to positively changing themselves and others, and who lead from the heart.

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