Business Leadership Today

How a Leader Shows Emotional Intelligence


Matt Tenney, Author of Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process

Throughout history, leadership has often been associated with charismatic and assertive personalities. However, as we continue to progress and learn more about human behavior, a new paradigm has emerged. 

This new paradigm places emotional intelligence at the forefront of effective leadership. In other words, the ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, is now considered a critical component of successful leadership. 

Unfortunately, many leaders struggle with developing and demonstrating emotional intelligence, which can make it difficult for them to handle criticism and overcome barriers such as fear of failure, resistance to change, and power dynamics.

Leaders can create a more supportive and positive work environment, build stronger relationships with their team members, and, ultimately, achieve greater success in their endeavors by honing their emotional intelligence skills.

A leader can show emotional intelligence in the workplace by continuously practicing self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. These elements not only contribute to personal success but also enhance team performance and organizational success. 

This article will delve into each of these aspects, providing practical ways for leaders to exhibit emotional intelligence in their roles.

The Difference Emotional Intelligence Can Make

Once upon a time, there was a team leader named Jack who was highly regarded for his exceptional technical abilities and intelligence. 

He had a remarkable talent for solving complex problems with ease. However, despite his proficiency, his team was always under immense pressure, which led to a high rate of employee turnover and low morale. 

One day, a new manager named Lori was appointed to lead the team. Though Lori was not as technically skilled as Jack, she possessed excellent emotional intelligence. 

She was empathetic, understanding, and had exceptional interpersonal skills. She took the time to understand her team members, their strengths, weaknesses, and, most importantly, what motivated them. 

Lori immediately began to initiate positive changes. She began to appreciate and acknowledge the team’s hard work and efforts, while also addressing their concerns. 

She encouraged open communication and created a positive work environment. She also provided constructive feedback to team members, which helped them improve their skills and develop professionally.

As a result of these efforts, the team’s performance rapidly improved. The rate of employee turnover decreased significantly, and the team’s morale skyrocketed. Team members started delivering high-quality work consistently because they felt valued and motivated, which helped them and the organization achieve their goals. 

What’s the moral of the story? While technical skills are essential, emotional intelligence is critical for effective leadership. It helps leaders understand their team better, foster a positive work environment, and ultimately lead their team to success. 

It can make all the difference between a stressed-out, underperforming team and a team that consistently delivers a superior performance without compromising the well-being of its members. 

But how can a leader transform from a Jack into a Lori? By developing their emotional intelligence. 

Understanding Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence, as proposed by psychologist Daniel Goleman, is composed of five key components: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

Self-awareness is the ability to recognize and understand our own emotions, how they impact our behavior, and how they affect others. It involves being conscious of our strengths, weaknesses, values, and the impact we have on those around us.

Self-regulation involves controlling or redirecting our disruptive emotions and adapting to changing circumstances. It’s about expressing our emotions appropriately and not letting our emotions get the best of us.

Motivation in the context of emotional intelligence refers to our inner drive to achieve and improve, our readiness to act on opportunities, and our overall optimism and commitment toward our goals.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It involves recognizing others’ emotional states and being able to “put ourselves in their shoes.”

Social skills refer to the skills we use to interact and communicate with each other. They include both verbal skills, like speaking, and non-verbal skills, like body language, as well as listening skills.

These five components work together to determine our emotional intelligence. A leader who can master these elements can navigate the complexities of team dynamics, foster a positive work environment, and lead their team to success.

How Leaders Can Show Emotional Intelligence

Leaders can show emotional intelligence by cultivating these qualities: 


One of the most important qualities of a good leader is self-awareness, which involves being conscious of their emotional state and how it can affect their decision-making and behavior. 

Self-aware leaders are able to reflect on their actions, seek feedback from others, and remain open to constructive criticism. By understanding their emotional triggers, they can better regulate their responses and make more effective decisions.


Leadership is not only about directing and guiding people, but it also requires a certain level of self-regulation. Leaders who can maintain their composure during stressful situations, express their emotions appropriately, and act consistently with their values are more likely to earn the trust and respect of their team members. 

Additionally, leaders who demonstrate integrity by taking responsibility for their actions and adapting to changing circumstances can effectively navigate challenges and lead their teams toward success.


Motivation is an essential aspect of leadership. Leaders can effectively motivate their teams by setting challenging goals that encourage growth and development. They can also demonstrate a high standard of excellence by consistently delivering quality work. 

Additionally, leaders who show commitment to the organization’s vision can inspire others to work toward a common goal. By displaying passion and optimism, leaders can create a positive work environment that encourages their team to achieve success.


Leaders who exhibit empathy tend to be more effective at building strong and cohesive teams. They achieve this by being perceptive to the emotional climate of their teams, as well as by taking the time to understand the viewpoints of their team members. 

Additionally, empathetic leaders are able to respond to the emotional needs of their team members and build a culture of trust and understanding. They can enhance collaboration, productivity, and overall team performance by fostering such an environment.

Social Skills

Leadership is more than just having authority. It requires the ability to manage relationships, influence others, and build networks. 

Effective communication skills, conflict resolution, and leading by example are some of the social skills that can help leaders move people in the desired direction. 

The Impact of Emotional Intelligence on Leadership

Emotional intelligence has a profound impact on leadership effectiveness. 

A leader with high emotional intelligence can create a work environment that is characterized by trust, openness, and fairness. They can inspire and motivate their team, leading to increased productivity and job satisfaction.

Emotionally intelligent leaders are more effective in managing teams. 

They can understand and manage the emotions of their team members, leading to improved team performance. They can resolve conflicts more effectively, foster stronger relationships among team members, and create a more collaborative and innovative team culture.

At the organizational level, emotional intelligence can lead to success. 

Organizations led by emotionally intelligent leaders tend to have higher employee engagement, lower turnover rates, and better overall performance. These organizations are better at adapting to change, are more innovative, and have a stronger customer focus.

Emotional intelligence is not just a nice-to-have for leaders, but a critical factor that can determine the success of a leader, a team, and an entire organization. By understanding and applying the principles of emotional intelligence, leaders can unlock their full potential and lead their teams to success.

Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.

Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.

He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.

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