Emotional Intelligence, or “EI” is the ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions, as well as recognizing, understanding and influencing the emotions of others. The ability to understand and manage our emotions helps us achieve success both personally and professionally.

Emotional Intelligence can be measured as one’s emotional quotient (EQ); Harvard Business School research has determined that EQ counts for twice as much as IQ and technical skills combined when determining who will be successful.

Luckily, EI is a skill that we can develop and improve, which is crucial to be a successful leader. Having a strong EI allows you to:

  1. Express yourself effectively

  2. Control your emotions and avoid reactivity  

  3. Understand, interpret, and respond to the way people are feeling 

  4. Channel your own emotions and the emotions of others in a positive and productive way

Here are some ways to start developing your EI:

1. Practice mindfulness.

Being mindful refers to focusing on the current moment instead of worrying about what may happen next week or even tomorrow. It enables people to make better decisions and experience less stress. Some companies are even opening “mindfulness centers” or “meditation rooms” at work. Start practicing mindfulness by simply taking deep breaths, actually taking a relaxing lunch break, and routinely expressing gratitude. 

2. Listen actively.

Give full attention to someone when they are speaking. Use more senses than just your ears. Pay attention to their body language. What are the messages they are trying to relay? Don’t listen to respond, listen to really learn. 

3. Improve conflict management abilities.

Conflict will always be present at times in your workplace. The key is to be able to handle the conflict appropriately and effectively as a leader. This article in Business New Daily gives some strategies to best management conflict. You’ll notice that many of the tips have to do with effective communication and mirror some of the other attributes of high EI described. 

4. Get to know your team personally.

Developing friendly relationships with your team members is another way to develop your EI. Knowing some about your team members’ lives outside of work will help you better understand the type of people and personalities that you’re communicating with. Some ideas to do this:

  • Have monthly team outings
  • Create challenges within your team such as workout challenges or “Let’s try a margarita from a different restaurant each week” 
  • Weekly status meetings with your team not only for task purposes but also to check in on each other and how things are going outside of work related responsibilities

5. Understand your team’s strengths and weaknesses.

We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Make an effort to evaluate what those are in your team members as well. This will help you be able to offer training and mentoring in appropriate areas and to delegate appropriately. 

6. Seek feedback often.

Feedback shouldn’t be just an annual event. Consider 3-6 month evaluations where you solicit feedback from your supervisor and from team members. 

7. Invest in development programs.

Investing in EI development training is key to becoming an exceptional leader within your organization and elevating your ability to manage from good to great. There are many options when it comes to training courses for your Emotional Intelligence. For example, Udemy offers a wide variety of EI courses. eCornell actually offers a Psychology of Leadership Certificate that is very targeted to EI. 
With research pointing more and more to the importance of Emotional Intelligence in leaders, it’s only a matter of time before HR and hiring managers take note. Soon, EI will be more important than ever in candidates for leadership positions. Whether you’re a current leader, or a current team member — consider putting some of the tactics from above into practice. High EI helps with all relationships, not just those in the workplace. Channeling our emotions in a positive way seems like a good idea all around! 


Outback Team Building: The What, Why and How of Developing Emotional Intelligence for Leaders