Top 5 Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

The top five characteristics of emotional intelligence in leadership are self-awareness, empathy, social skills, effective communication, and motivation. Leaders who exhibit emotional intelligence can relate better with their colleagues, understand their feelings and emotions, and respond effectively.

In short, they have a set of attributes that allows them to lead more effectively. This article will explore each of these characteristics in-depth, and offer suggestions for developing them.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and control your own emotions, as well as the emotions of other people. It also involves identifying different types of emotions and using this information to make decisions and behave in a helpful and appropriate way. It also means having the capacity for empathy: considering others’ feelings in a given situation and responding appropriately.

It’s a trait, skill, or ability that can be learned and refined through practice and experience, which will be beneficial when working with others. Emotional intelligence is defined as the “capacity to reason about emotions and emotional knowledge, to integrate emotion-related information into thought processes, and to use feelings to motivate our behavior”.

Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Emotional intelligence is essential in leadership for maintaining effective relations. It helps you respond to your emotions appropriately and read the emotional states of others – thus creating a trusting environment for open communication. Here are the attributes of emotional intelligence.

1. Self-Awareness  

Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence. It deals with self-knowledge understanding your strengths and weaknesses. With this trait, you can recognize how emotions affect people’s behaviour. Your ability to control your emotions influences how well you can motivate yourself by monitoring your performance against personal goals. By being self-aware, you keep your emotions in check and, as a result, make more informed decisions about how you feel, think and act.

It also ensures you can stop bad situations from escalating or repeating by learning to recognize the warning signs of an impending problem. Also, you understand how your moods influence other people’s motivation, which helps you avoid creating a situation where under-performing employees respond impulsively. Similarly, you also recognize your areas of strength and can build upon them to become a better leader. Thus, you constantly seek opportunities for self-improvement and ways to develop your leadership skills.

2. Empathy  

One of the most important characteristics of emotional leadership is empathy. With this characteristic, you can put yourself in your follower’s shoes and understand what they are feeling, both good and bad; therefore, you improve at dealing with people. Thus, you become as highly effective as a communicator and a problem solver.

Being empathetic also enables you to understand what people are feeling and how it drives their behavior. Then, you can use this knowledge to motivate followers better instead of using purely logic-based arguments. Your empathy enables you to understand the emotional state of others and respond accordingly.

3. Social Skills

Leaders must possess effective social skills to be effective enough to motivate others. Hence, you work well with others and build strong relationships based on trust, mutual respect and loyalty. People don’t follow the most intelligent person; they follow the person who can best relate to them. Therefore, it is important to establish relationships with your subordinates, peers and superiors quickly.

Social skills allow you to deal with the politics of the workplace. They also enable you to persuade people in certain situations, sell your ideas and points of view, and convince others to follow you. You are also able to build and manage relationships smoothly.

4. Communication Skills  

One of the biggest problems for leaders is poor communication skills, both verbal and non-verbal. People don’t listen to what you say; they listen to how you make them feel. If people do not feel any emotional connection to your words, it will be an uphill task for you to influence them. Communication is a two-way street, and effectively communicating your message is as important as listening to those of others. This will help build trust, leading to increased motivation from your team members.

5. Motivation

Motivation is an important aspect of emotional intelligence. You can motivate yourself and help others stay motivated by setting long-term goals and managing your time effectively, thereby getting things done in the most efficient manner possible.  Motivating people around you makes it easier to get the best out of them, especially in tough times.

You can motivate yourself by using positive self-talk, setting short term goals and rewarding yourself for reaching these milestones. You can motivate others by explaining how their work affects other departments or individuals across the business and how it, therefore, adds value to the company. 

Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

As a leader,  you are constantly faced with new challenges every day, including dealing with conflict regularly. Therefore, it is important to be emotionally intelligent to avoid reacting impulsively when things don’t go according to plan. The following are important ways in which emotional intelligence helps you as a leader:  

1. Dealing with Difficult Situations  

Emotional intelligence is beneficial for all kinds of difficult situations, especially those involving conflict. It enables you to build relationships and resolve problems quickly to not escalate into bigger issues or hurt your followers or the company.   

2. Helping in Decision-Making

IT enables you to make decisions faster, make better choices and help others understand why certain crucial decisions were made. Making the right choice when it comes to decision-making does not necessarily mean picking the popular option or the one that makes most financial sense; emotional intelligence also plays a role here. 

3. Increased Productivity

You increase productivity by motivating others to give their best, making it easier to achieve your goals and complete tasks successfully. It also increases creativity since people are more open to new ideas when their emotional needs are met. Being emotionally intelligent improves work relationships and business performance by enhancing clients satisfaction levels and reducing employee absenteeism rates.

4. Motivation of Subordinates

Emotional leadership provides a great platform for developing relationships with others, increasing their motivation and helping them feel safe. It also helps you discover your subordinates’ interests and strengths to best utilize their skills at work. This makes it easier to get the most out of people’s talents,  which contributes to the company’s growth and success.


The most successful leaders understand the power of emotional intelligence and use it to their advantage. Emotional leadership is an important tool that enables you to make decisions faster, deal with difficult situations like conflict more effectively and motivate others to give their best, which contributes to increased productivity among employees. The next time you find yourself confronted by a challenging situation or decision, consider how your emotions may be affecting your judgment before jumping to any conclusions. It pays off big when properly applied!