CEO Insider

How to Develop Emotional Intelligence for Successful Leadership

The qualities that make exceptional leaders and CEOs are widely discussed. Great leaders approach tasks with clarity, are organized, and demonstrate other positive traits. But there is one thing that is the foundation of successful leadership: emotional intelligence. That is the ability to empathize with the emotions of others and manage your own.

Developing emotional intelligence demonstrates a solid commitment to leadership. It’s essential to understand the following different areas of emotional IQ to be aware of and practice.

Self-Awareness

The ability to comprehend our emotions and how they affect our performance is dependent on self-awareness. Understanding how your thoughts, feelings, and actions align with your beliefs and sense of integrity will allow you to be more aware of your personal and business relationships and stay truthful to yourself. Self-awareness will help you decipher what is (or isn’t) important to you so that you can make decisions in harmony with your vision, values, and goals.

Self-Management

This can be thought of as the ability to govern yourself. Under self-management, there are several categories: emotional self-control, achievement organization, a positive outlook, and adaptability.

Emotional self-control involves keeping disruptive emotions and impulses in check, maintaining our effectiveness under stressful or hostile conditions, and learning how to control our impulses and delay gratification when necessary. Bringing our emotions under control to act reasonably or appropriately in any situation will help us cope with stress more effectively, enabling us to better adapt as needed. We learn how to manage our extreme emotions, and channel negative energy into positive action.

Then there is achievement orientation: allowing us to strive for or exceed a standard of excellence, look for ways to improve our practices; set challenging goals, and take calculated risks.

With a positive outlook, we see the good in people, situations, and events and pursue goals despite obstacles and setbacks. Lastly, adaptability determines our ability to handle change, juggle multiple demands, and adapt approaches to suit a situation.

Adaptability is the capacity to handle change, juggle multiple demands, and adapt approaches to suit a situation.

Social Awareness

Social awareness builds off the skills of self-awareness and self-management, influencing how you adjust yourself to various social situations in response to the emotions of yourself and others. Social awareness is possible with empathy and organizational understanding.

Empathy means sensing or picking up cues on what others think and feel, taking an active interest in others. On a larger scale, organizational awareness can read a group’s emotional currents and power relationships to identify influencers, networks, and dynamics.

Relationship Management

Emotional understanding helps to interact with others successfully. Relationship management involves several different areas: influence, coach and mentor, conflict management, inspirational leadership, and teamwork.

Influence is the ability to positively impact, persuade or convince others to gain their support. It is also directly connected with inspirational leadership.

Coach and mentor entails fostering the long-term learning or development of others by giving feedback and support, encouraging the growth of both yourself and others. The aim is to encourage self-reflection and ongoing assessment of progress toward goals within a developmental relationship. Mentors may be formal (for example, part of a structured program) or informal (for example, someone who has volunteered information or advice).

Conflict management helps others through emotional or tense situations, tactfully bringing disagreements into the open, and finding solutions all can endorse. Maintaining fair conflict resolution will get you far in a business where miscommunications occur, and where resolving them benefits everybody. Handling interpersonal conflicts to avoid severe damage ensures continued harmony.

Inspirational leadership can inspire and guide individuals and groups to get the job done and bring out the best in others. It goes beyond delegating responsibilities and tasks; instead, truly making teams and employees feel that their work has purpose and meaning.

And finally, teamwork encompasses the ability to work with others towards a shared goal; participating actively, sharing responsibility and reward, and contributing to the team’s capability. Teamwork fosters innovation, creating an environment where it is safe to take calculated risks and celebrate progress. Excellence cannot exist without collaboration. Acknowledging when you need others to reach a goal and vision is part of outstanding leadership. Maintaining connections with employees helps resolve minor issues and builds trust, loyalty, and commitment.

Emotional intelligence is a crucial competency of successful leaders. A leader’s ability to effectively manage emotions and situations is just as important as the vision that shapes an organization’s culture. Leaders who possess high emotional intelligence can execute tasks with precision, build positive relationships with their staff and c-workers, inspire confidence in others and promote collaboration to achieve common goals.

To effectively utilize emotional intelligence in the workplace, you must first recognize that there is room for growth. As with any skill set, it takes time and dedication to develop self-awareness and to become proficient at managing emotions.

Emotional intelligence is about understanding whom you are in relation to others and managing your reaction to potential conflict. By doing so, you establish and create relationships based on mutual trust and respect.


Written by Paul Cowan.

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Paul Cowan
Paul Cowan is a relationship specialist who had a successful career in leading international advertising agencies, then opened his own agency. As a psychotherapist he worked with individuals and couples and consulted with teams and organizations. Specializing in client relationships, he works internationally to facilitate change between agencies and their clients. He cofounded the Client Relationship Consultancy and the Customer Relationship Consultancy. His new book is Connecting with Clients — For stronger, more rewarding and longer-lasting client relationships.


Paul Cowan is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn.