20 Ways Emotional Intelligence Can Make You a Better Leader

Become the type of boss you've always admired.

Effective leadership is as valuable as it is rare. However, for many people in top-tier roles, there's an easy way to be more effective that your MBA program might not have prepared you for: increase your emotional intelligence, or EQ. While many people assume that strong leadership means taking a hardline approach, emotional intelligence—the ability to understand and modulate your own emotions and react with empathy to others—is far more valuable in the long run.

Research published in the European Journal of Business and Management reveals that emotional intelligence is strongly correlated with success as a leader, giving businesses a competitive advantage and helping them run smoothly on a day-to-day basis. So, what about business and emotional intelligence go hand-in-hand, exactly?

"Emotional intelligence is crucial to being a great leader. It includes both knowing what we are feeling and paying attention to how followers/subordinates might be feeling," says Karen R. Koenig, M. Ed., LCSW. "Emotional intelligence allows leaders to inspire but not push too hard, be strong but sensitive, and treat others fairly, but not enable." What's more, even if you're still in a mid- or lower-level position, emotional intelligence can work wonders on your career climb, too. For you want to take the next step up the ladder, discover the 20 Ways Emotional Intelligence Can Help You Get a Promotion.

It Helps You Better Understand Your Employees

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You can't be an effective leader if your employees are little more to you than cogs in a machine. Fortunately, by boosting your emotional intelligence, you can help get to know your employees on a personal level, better understanding how to motivate them in the process.

"Emotional intelligence improves your ability to see things from the other person's perspective, including what other people may be thinking and feeling. Therefore, higher EQ enables you to better understand your employees actions and decisions, as well as their needs," says Dr. Inna Khazan, PhD. And for more ways to boost your EQ, check out these 20 Easy Ways to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence.

It Gives You More Confidence

Your business partners are very important to growing your business

Being a good leader means staying strong, even in the face of adversity. Luckily, when you're emotionally intelligent, it's easy to feel confident in your strengths and know how to effectively manage the strong emotions and opinions of those working below you—something that might otherwise throw you off your game. And when you want to be more confident, start with these 20 Daily Confidence Boosters for Getting Ahead at Work.

It Makes You More Self-Aware

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A lack of self-awareness can be a killer when you're trying to lead effectively. The good news? Working on your emotional intelligence can help you recognize both your own needs in the workplace and those of the people working for you.

"I heard a story from a client that her supervisor made a snarky comment to her when she was upset which made my client feel stupid and more upset," says Koenig. "Had her supervisor been more thoughtful in her words, my client would have been better able to calm down more quickly and learn what her supervisor wanted from her." And for more ways to make the most of your 9-to-5, check out these 50 Inspirational Success Quotes That Will Energize Your Days.

It Increases Camaraderie

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Being a good leader isn't all about knowing how to boss people around. In fact, much of being a good, motivational leader comes from enjoying camaraderie with the people you work with, and making them feel comfortable and appreciated. And, naturally, being emotionally intelligent makes it far easier to make your appreciation of your employees' individual skills known.

It Helps You Hone Your Own Skills

never say this at work

Effective leadership and resting on your laurels are, unfortunately, mutually exclusive. The good news? Emotionally intelligent leaders have the motivation necessary to keep polishing those leadership skills so that they don't become complacent. And for more advice on how to take your career to the next level, This Is the Fastest Way to Get Promoted.

It Increases Your Productivity

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Productivity and emotional intelligence go hand-in-hand for those in leadership positions. When you're an emotionally intelligent leader, you understand the reasons why things need to get done and don't let your ego get in the way, even if that means admitting your own errors.

"One of the most significant issues that reduce your productivity is avoidance of difficult or unpleasant emotions," adds Dr. Khazan. "EQ helps you become more aware of such emotions, and enables you to cope with them in helpful ways, reducing avoidance and increasing productivity." And when you're ready to become more effective at work, discover these 20 Ways to Procrastinate Productively.

It Makes You Kinder

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A little kindness goes a surprisingly long way when you're in a leadership role. "Because EQ helps you to better understand other people's experience, it becomes easier to see and empathize with other people's struggles and then to be kinder in your actions and responses," says Dr. Khazan.

Fortunately, when you're emotionally intelligent and respect the feelings of your employees, it's easier to be kind to them. In turn, they'll work harder for you—after all, when's the last time you found yourself motivated by someone cruelly barking orders at you? And when you want to be a kinder person, start with these 20 Easy Ways to Be Less Mean.

It Increases Your Job Satisfaction

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It's hard to be an effective leader when you dread going to your job day in and day out. The good news? Emotional intelligence can help you identify why you want to work, what you like about it, and help you fix the things that are holding you back.

It Reduces Workplace Stress

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Workplace stress can be significant for those in leadership roles, but a little emotional intelligence can help mitigate this often-detrimental side effect of a high-powered position. With a little work on your own emotional intelligence, things that would have otherwise stressed you out, like an employee who's having a hard time or an ever-expanding to-do list, can be dealt with in a calm and collected manner. And if you're feeling overwhelmed, try relaxing with these 30 Easy Ways to Fight Stress.

It Helps You Stay More Even-Keeled

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Knowing your stress triggers and keeping a cool head is a lot easier when you're emotionally intelligent. Being able to identify and deal with some of the heightened emotions you're feeling at work before they become a massive headache can help you keep your cool in front of your employees. Understanding the potentially catastrophic consequences having a meltdown or screaming at an employee could have can keep you in check, keeping your business running smoothly along the way. And for more ways to manage your emotions, try out these 25 Best Instant Mood Boosters.

It Helps You Think Outside the Box

Sexist at Work

People afraid to fail often have a difficult time accepting new ideas. Luckily, those with ample emotional intelligence aren't scared to think outside the box, even if the old way of doing things was more comfortable. New ideas are the lifeblood of any good business, after all.

It Opens Up Channels of Communication


A scary leader is rarely an effective one in the long term. The good news is that being emotionally intelligent can make you more understanding, and, as such, a leader your subordinates aren't afraid to communicate with. This often creates a positive cycle in the workplace: with more communication, you become more effective, and have more feedback to give your employees.

It Helps You Admit When You're Wrong

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It's never easy to admit when you've made a mistake, and that's especially true for those in leadership positions. Fortunately, for those who are emotionally intelligent, it's easy to recognize that a single failure doesn't make you a failure, and admit when you've acted in error. This kind of honesty will make your employees respect you more in the long run.

It Makes You More Open to Your Employees' Ideas

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In addition to thinking outside the box on a personal level, emotional intelligence can help you increase your receptivity to others' ideas, as well. When you value and respect your employees and empathize with them, it's easier to treat their contributions as valuable.

It Helps You Retain Talent

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If you're eager to stop the endless turnover at your company, it wouldn't hurt to brush up on your EQ skills. "People want to work with leaders who are more attuned to their needs, are able to communicate effectively, and respond to their employees with compassion and understanding," explains Dr. Khazan.

In the long run, fostering these emotional connections with your employees will make them eager to stay in their positions instead of looking for a job that can nurture them both professionally and personally.

It Slashes Wasted Time

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Emotional intelligence can be a serious time-saver for leaders. Emotionally intelligent people aren't afraid to shake things up, even if it means there's a chance of failure. A leader with high EQ will know when an email can be subbed in for an hour-long meeting, or vice versa, even if making that change is an initially frightening prospect.

It Helps You Recognize Your Own Motivations

how to ask for a raise

It's no easy task to separate your personal feelings and the professional side of you that knows when things need to get done. Luckily, a little emotional intelligence can go a long way when it comes to recognizing why you're doing things as a leader. Are you simply continuing what the boss before you did? Are you acting with anger? Are you bringing stress from outside the office into the workplace? Are you unclear about why something has to be done a certain way? Once you understand your own motivations, it's easier to separate your feelings from the facts about what needs to be accomplished.

It Improves Your Problem-Solving Skills

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Whether you're dealing with a difficult employee, struggling to find ways to grow your new business, or just feeling emotionally exhausted, emotional intelligence can help. Emotional intelligence makes you more receptive to new ideas, helps you pick yourself up after a perceived failure, and helps keep your emotions in check when you're frustrated, all of which can help you more effectively problem solve in the long run.

It Reduces Competitiveness

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Workplace competition can be a serious cause of stress, even for the most stalwart leaders. The good news? By recognizing your own talents in the workplace and those of others, rather than comparing yourself to the person with the bigger office and flashier title, you can ditch that unnecessarily competitive nature and enjoy your job for what it is instead of what you wish it could be.

It Makes You More Content Outside of Your Job

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Being an effective leader means being committed to the work, even when you're feeling less than motivated. Fortunately, being emotionally intelligent can help you better navigate relationships outside of work, reducing your day-to-day stress and making it easier to stay content when you're off the clock. In turn, this will make it easier to stay focused on the task at hand when you're at work and maintain a healthier work-life balance in the long run. And when you want to shake things up at work, start with the 40 Best Ways to Jumpstart Your Career.

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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