Critical thinking

The Emotionally Strong Leader: Building Effective And Collaborative Workplace Relationships

Carolyn Stern

Time is up for the irreproachable leader whose very presence can cause waves of terror among employees. So too is it up for the stoic, detached, and unflappable leader whose inability to be seen as anything but in control creates tense and inauthentic interactions. 

What we need today are leaders who embrace their feelings, who understand themselves from the inside-out. These Emotionally Strong Leaders are able to create solid connections with others by nurturing and maintaining mutually satisfying relationships. They use their interpersonal skills to enhance communication in the workplace and build effective and collaborative relationships and associations with all levels across the organization.  Below are a series of tools to help you strengthen your interpersonal relationships.

Be Willing to Open Up and Share about Yourself

By sharing life experiences, opinions, and challenges, leaders can create a psychologically safe place for others to speak up and share theirs. The deeper the conversation, the more of a connection will be built. To build trust, you need to take risks first as a leader and be vulnerable. Taking off your corporate mask and being honest with someone is critical for creating an open and trusting connection. 

Be Open-Minded

Every person is different, and they may have different views and opinions than you. Having an open mind and welcoming different views will allow your relationships to grow and become more meaningful. Ask questions, using a friendly tone and smile, to understand where others are coming from, especially those who may be very different from you. 

Practice Active Listening

Actively listening shows others that you care. Slow down and let others talk before interjecting about yourself. Besides listening to their words, try to read their gestures, take in their emotions and thoughts, and read between the lines. It’s about being present and focused on not only what they say and do but also on what they don’t say and do. Research reveals that 55 percent of what they are saying can be observed in their body language, 38 percent can be heard in their tone of voice, and only 7 percent comes with their words. So when spending time with someone, watch what they are not saying in words but are communicating nonverbally. 

Trust bonds are some of the strongest and most crucial when building dynamic, equitable relationships.

Schedule Time to Build Relationships

To develop good workplace relationships, you need to invest the time. When you’re able to connect more personally with your colleagues, this investment will pay off in dividends. Devote a portion of your day to build relationships. Even if it’s only five minutes, interactions help build the foundation of a good relationship. Building strong, genuine, and trusting relationships needs time and care but goes a long way. Invest the time and energy in getting to know people personally and finding out precisely what makes them tick and what makes them who they are.

The Importance of Empathy

Leaders need to display empathy, meaning they need to be sensitive to what, how, and why people feel the way they do. Being empathetic is being able to pick up on emotional cues and respond appropriately. Leaders must “emotionally monitor” others on a moment-by-moment basis. When people feel seen, heard, and cared for, that significantly impacts job satisfaction and the employee experience. Here’s what you can do to build empathy.

Have Limitless Curiosity about Others

Highly empathetic people have a voracious appetite for knowing about others. Make sure that when asking questions, you suspend your judgment so you can truly understand another person’s lived experience. An Emotionally Strong Leader is curious and not judgmental. Ask others questions to help you understand their why—why they think, say, or do the things they think, say, or do. By knowing why people are the way they are, you will have more compassion and empathy for others. 

Give Others the Benefit of the Doubt

The mind is negatively oriented so giving others the benefit of the doubt takes intention and effort. In all situations, assuming positive intent and considering an alternative or generous interpretation of the situation will help you feel a little lighter as you learn to accept others with greater ease. Remember, the next time someone cuts you off when driving, put your generous hat on and ask yourself what might be going on for this person. Perhaps, the other person did not realize the lane was ending. The best practice is always to give others the benefit of the doubt.

Challenge Your Prejudices and Preconceived Notions

We all make assumptions and have biased beliefs that prevent us from appreciating what makes others unique. Challenge your preconceived notions and prejudices by focusing on similarities, not differences. Learn to consider other people’s point of view, especially those whose beliefs you don’t share, and start to see the value others bring. Having an open mind allows you to approach the situation with a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. In this way, problems become opportunities, assumptions are challenged, and thought-provoking questions come to the fore.


Written by Carolyn Stern.
Have you read?
How to ace your CIO interview?
7 Way for CEOs to Shift from ESG to Conscious Capitalism by Parul Agrawal.
6 Habits of successful entrepreneurs by Alan Manly.
What you should know about Static Residential Proxies?
Life Changing Academy: Creating the Life You Really Want to Live.
How Alex Lopez, CEO of New Door Property Transfer, is Revolutionizing How Realtors Earn Their Way.
How to avoid “rainbow washing” during Pride Month by Ash Beckham.

Carolyn Stern
Carolyn Stern, author of THE EMOTIONALLY STRONG LEADER, is the President and CEO of EI Experience, an executive leadership development and emotional intelligence training firm. She is a certified Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Development Expert, professional speaker, and university professor whose emotional intelligence courses and modules have been adopted by top universities in North America. She has also provided comprehensive training programs to business leaders across the continent in highly regarded corporations encompassing industries such as technology, finance, manufacturing, advertising, education, healthcare, government, and foodservice. Stern lives and works in Vancouver, British Columbia.


Carolyn Stern is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with her through LinkedIn. For more information, visit the author’s website.