Building Your Emotional Intelligence To Become A More Effective Leader

As a leader today, both technical intelligence (often referred to as technical quotient, technical intelligence quotient or TQ) and emotional intelligence (often referred to as emotional quotient, emotional intelligence quotient or EQ) are essential skills for long-term career success.  

In the computer industry, leaders are often selected from the ranks of the best technical talent, which ensures that they have high TQ.

Unfortunately, the soft skills, EQ, and management savvy that it takes to be an effective leader often need improvement for a lot of new leaders.

EQ refers to one’s ability to recognize your own internal emotional state, to differentiate your state from the emotional state of others, to discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, and then to use all that emotional information to guide the behavior and thinking of your team (and yourself) to positively execute your mission and or goals.

How does high EQ manifest itself in the everyday work lives of contemporary leaders?

Let’s walk through four traits of high EQ leaders.

Remain Calm and Composed

In the middle of a crisis, the responsibility of an effective leader with high EQ is to calm down, survey the emotional landscape and share that calm with their team and organization. The best leaders go a step forward and find ways to harness the upside of stress.

High EQ leaders should not be losing their temper and berating their team publicly. They should not be sending abusive, impulsive or belittling electronic communications. In fact, this is the exact opposite of what it means to be a high EQ leader.

However, being calm, cool and collected, does not mean that you are an emotionless droid or a doormat. You are going through the same negative experience as everyone else. Your superpower is that you can recognize your feelings in real time and you can express them constructively in service of creating a positive outcome.

This also means that you have developed or uncovered ways to handle stress and anxiety, that you can empathize with people when their stress surfaces in unproductive ways, that you forgive them and try to turn each of these non-positive interactions into teachable moments, and that you are able to find grounding ways to protect yourself. High EQ leaders empathize and don’t hold grudges.

Find The Rainbow

We have all heard the phrase “fail fast, fail often” or some version of it. Unfortunately, few organizations have the necessary processes and systems in place that encourage and support failure. Far fewer people, in your office, have the ability to not take failure personally and negatively.

As a high EQ leader, it is your job to help your team learn from failures, see the bright side of bad news, and continue moving toward the team’s goals; armed with this valuable new insight. All experiments are valuable. However, not all experiments will be successful. It is a natural part of life.

Earlier, I mentioned using difficult and stressful situation as teachable moments. This implies that you, as a leader, must be comfortable, ready, and willing to see the rainbow beyond the surrounding dark clouds. This also implies that you are skillful at having a difficult conversation when one is required.

High EQ leaders do not shy away from conflicts. They use conflict to teach, build more trust, strengthen work relationships and find common ground.

Smart Hiring And Nurturing

High EQ leaders must ensure that every single hire has the appropriate level of soft skills and empathy required for them to be successful in their role. Thus, you need to look beyond the resume and screen for cultural add and long-term success dimensions based on what you know of the environment.

Once you bring new team members on board, it is your duty to provide the conditions for new teammates to be as happy and engaged as you are. This means helping them with their learning and career plans, and knowing when someone is stressed or struggling. A high EQ leader does not pile work on a taxed team member.

It is also your duty to create an environment where anyone on the team is comfortable sharing new ideas. Your job is to listen, measure it carefully, don’t be biased by your own thoughts and ideas, and provide honest feedback (even if it means that you shelf your own idea for something better).

A high EQ leader gives their colleagues their undivided attention. They listen to their viewpoints. They seek to understand their employees’ point of view. They give them the time and space they need to present their thoughts. High EQ leaders are patient and do not constantly interrupt their colleagues when they are expressing themselves.

Set and Maintain Clear Boundaries

Being a high EQ leader doesn’t mean you are a people-pleaser or a yes person. On the contrary, you have clearly defined boundaries. You understand your strengths and weaknesses. You know what you are good at and what you need help with. You own your “no.” You hold your ground in debates. This builds trust with others because they know you are an independent and self-aware team player that is focused on achieving the mission.


The importance of EQ for the modern day leader cannot be underestimated. It is one of the fundamental pillars upon which your leadership is built.

If you recognize that a higher EQ would be beneficial for you, your team and your organization, then today is the day to take those critical first steps in improving it.

Enjoy the journey. The destination is far less exciting.

Related Reading

Tyrone Grandison is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.


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Kaitlin Moller

Great post! I’ve never underestimated the power of a high emotional intelligence in the workplace and even outside of it. I think it’s important for everybody to work on, and I’m glad you agree!

Joe Antoshak

Really good blog here. Emotional intelligence is a tricky quality to put a finger on, which means it isn’t always valued as highly as it should be in the workplace — for leaders and non-leaders alike. Thanks for posting.