Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Unlocking the Power of EQ in Leadership

When renowned entrepreneur and investor Warren Buffett was asked what he looks for when deciding who to invest in, his answer surprised many: emotional intelligence. Leadership is a lid on any organization, and Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a lid on leadership. Buffett knows that after 50+ years of investing, an organization with a low EQ will likely have little success. You’re one paragraph into this post, and there’s an immediate takeaway: Leaders must invest in developing high EQ.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to understand one’s own emotions and those of others. It allows leaders to build strong relationships, foster productive environments, and make sound decisions that benefit everyone involved. In this blog post, we’ll explore what it takes to unlock the power of EQ in leadership. The Center for Creative Leadership says 75 percent of careers are derailed for reasons related to emotional competencies, including the inability to handle interpersonal problems, unsatisfactory team leadership during times of difficulty or conflict, or the inability to adapt to change or elicit trust.

Why Should I Care About EQ?

As any experienced leader knows, recognizing your emotions and those of others is crucial for successful management. To understand the importance of EQ skills in the workplace, we must consider what renowned psychologist Daniel Goleman said. “The emotional component of our intellect – our ability to discern among subtleties of feeling, most particularly our own – is an essential ingredient of cognitive excellence.” Famed personal development guru Dale Carnegie puts it much more plainly. “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.”

Understanding the power and necessity of EQ in leading people is a lesson it took me years to learn. I am an extremely decisive, driven, and, most notably for this discussion, task-oriented leader. In my early leadership roles as a teenager and then my time in the US Army, I was utterly oblivious to the emotional component of leadership. I was constantly trying to understand why I got less-than-stellar results. When I started to gain awareness of the existence of an emotional side to leading people, I immaturely chalked it up to “touchy-feely” hoo-ha. I considered it childish for people to allow emotions to play a role in accomplishing what was needed. Boy, was I wrong!

Those with a high degree of Emotional Intelligence are better prepared to tackle complex negotiations, build productive teams, handle difficult conversations, and make ethical decisions. Research also shows that having strong EQ skills can increase job satisfaction by up to 45%. With such impressive benefits from developing EQ, leaders everywhere should find ways to hone this crucial skill.

Unlocking the power of emotional intelligence in leadership is essential for creating an environment where employees feel seen, heard, and valued. By understanding the emotions of those around them, leaders can take appropriate action to bolster morale and foster collaboration. Through empathy and thoughtful communication, EQ unlocks the potential of collective thinking and drives greater productivity.

Successful leaders often demonstrate emotional intelligence (EQ). For example, Arianna Huffington, the founder of The Huffington Post and Thrive Global, is a successful leader with superior emotional intelligence. Huffington excels at knowing how to create an environment that fosters innovation and creativity through her use of humor and kindness. In addition, by recognizing the importance of self-care in the workplace, she can lead her teams more effectively.

Apple CEO Tim Cook also uses emotional intelligence to lead his company. He talks with employees, listens to their concerns, and shows empathy. He makes decisions based on facts and considers how those decisions will affect others within the organization. His ability to understand how others will receive his choices is a testament to his high level of emotional intelligence.

Creating a positive environment with emotional intelligence is a surefire way to motivate and engage your team. Using inviting, uplifting, and supportive language goes a long way when it comes to creating an environment of positivity and encouragement. Adding humor or inspirational quotes is also a great way to boost employee morale. And at the end of the day, setting a positive tone at work helps employees build trust, foster collaboration, and stay motivated.

The most critical aspect of any interaction with another person is how they feel when you walk away!

Developing Emotional Intelligence

Build Self Awareness

Self-awareness plays a vital role in emotional intelligence and is critical to better understanding yourself and others. Self-awareness gives you a better sense of your emotions, values, motives, strengths, and weaknesses, making it easier to regulate your feelings, act with integrity and authenticity, and empathize with those around you. Self-awareness is the building block of emotional intelligence. It allows individuals to relate to one another on a deeper level. Self-awareness also means being tuned into how you are perceived. Using myself as an example, I used to have zero awareness of things like facial expression, tone of voice, and body language. I always considered myself a caring person who looked out for everyone’s interests. But all my verbal and non-verbal cues painted a picture of a jerk you’d want to run away from. As you can imagine, this dramatically limited my ability to lead others.


To help build self-awareness, here are some steps you can take:


  1. Get to know yourself better by reflecting on your thoughts and feelings. Identify your values, goals, and needs that motivate you and accept them as part of your identity.
  2. Observe yourself in different situations and consider your reactions and how they make others react around you.
  3. Ask for feedback from those close to you and use it to shape how you act and interact with others.
  4. Observe how other people interact with each other in different situations and reflect on what they do differently than how you would respond or handle the same circumstances.
  5. Keep a journal to track your emotions, thoughts, and actions throughout the day – this will help identify behavioral patterns that can be worked on for improvement or awareness purposes.
  6. Practice mindfulness techniques such as Christian meditation, silence, prayer, and gratitude exercises– these activities will allow for greater awareness of yourself through an increased understanding of thoughts, feelings, behavior patterns, and emotions. 
  7. Be kind to yourself with positive self-talk– reminding yourself of your unique gifts and strengths encourages self-confidence that comes from inner self-awareness.


Ultimately developing self-awareness leads to higher emotional intelligence, which allows for improved relationships with others, better problem-solving skills during difficult times, more control over your own life, and overall healthier mental well-being! Proverbs 14:8 says, “The wisdom of the prudent is to discern [their] way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.” This verse speaks to the importance of self-awareness and understanding one’s journey. Self-awareness allows us to understand our motivations, values, and weaknesses to make wise decisions in life.

Build Connections

Building connections and understanding others is another great way to develop emotional intelligence. Here are some steps to get started:


  1. Show genuine interest in others – listen actively to what they say and ask questions about their experiences and perspectives.
  2. Embrace diversity – recognize that everyone has different backgrounds, beliefs, and world views, and seek new perspectives from people with diverse backgrounds.
  3. Identify common ground – look for areas where you can find agreement or points of collaboration among people who might seem at odds on the surface.
  4. Respect boundaries – be conscious of the other person’s comfort level regarding how much information you share or how deep you push conversations into personal territory.
  5. Actively build relationships– seek out opportunities to foster meaningful connections with those around you through shared interests, common goals, or simply enjoying each other’s company in social settings.
  6. Practice being open-minded – be willing to consider another perspective before forming an opinion or taking a side on an issue. Here are some powerful questions you can ask yourself to help you be more open-minded:
  • What are my preconceived notions and assumptions about this person or situation?
  • How might another person see this differently than I do?
  • Are my views based on facts, or have I formed an opinion without considering all the facts?
  • Am I being too rigid in my thinking, and what could happen if I allowed alternative perspectives?
  • Have I been overly judgmental of someone or something I don’t fully understand yet?


Developing these skills will help you create the influence necessary to move people to action and align multiple stakeholders to achieve a common goal.

If you only take away one thing from this blog, let it be this: The most critical aspect of any interaction with another person is how they feel when you walk away! If you leave people feeling great (that’s an emotion) every time you walk away, the world is your oyster.

Emotional intelligence is an invaluable leadership skill that will help you be a more effective leader and build strong relationships with the people around you. Being emotionally intelligent will help you understand, connect, and inspire others in much more effective ways than relying on logic and reason alone. Making emotional intelligence an essential part of your leadership strategy is the best way to ensure success for yourself and those you lead. 

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