Leading with Emotional Intelligence: 4 Cornerstones for Success

Published: Mar 31, 2022
Modified: Apr 09, 2024


From American Management Association

It’s not a mystical gift or an inborn characteristic. Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a valuable skill that, with dedication and effort, just about anyone can develop. And for today’s business leaders, developing EI is definitely not optional. In any organization, the most effective leaders are credible and trustworthy. They build rapport, they show empathy, they alleviate resistance to change, and they inspire excellence. A leader’s ability to do all of this, and more, is rooted in their emotional intelligence.

To understand how EI relates to and impacts leadership, it’s essential to start with a clear understanding of what EI is. Emotional intelligence is built on four cornerstones:  

  1. Aware: the ability to recognize and process your own emotions. When you’re aware, you know what you’re feeling—even when those feelings are uncomfortable.
  1. Connect: the ability to perceive and grasp the emotions of others. When you connect, you try to understand what others are feeling. 
  1. Manage: the ability to monitor and assess your own emotions. Managing your emotions includes making adjustments in response to others or changes in the situation.     
  1. Achieve: the ability to direct your emotions in a productive manner.

Increasingly, companies are seeking out leaders with high EI, viewing this quality as a leadership fundamental and, in many cases, even more important than IQ and technical proficiencies. To help you raise your emotional intelligence level in the workplace, the experts at American Management Association (AMA) offer guidance on linking the four cornerstones of EI to six leadership competencies that increase employee morale and performance, drive results, and create a dynamic organizational culture:       

  1. Personal influence: Are you able to connect with others to build your personal credibility, gain their trust, and secure their buy-in? Are you applying empathy when coaching team members? When you encounter resistance, are you able to analyze the possible reasons through the lens of EI to identify alternative approaches?      
  1. Inspiration: Are you aware of your own strengths and liabilities? Could you use this awareness to increase connection and inspire your team members using relevant and relatable, emotionally intelligent leadership stories?
  1. Collaboration: Are you adept at identifying others’ strengths and liabilities? Are you able to bring different types of people together and encourage them to coordinate their efforts and bridge gaps? Can you convey how individual differences complement one another and strengthen creativity?   
  1. Change: Are you able to grasp and describe how your own and other people’s emotions impact attitudes toward change? Can you use the most effective communication skills to move past team members’ resistance to change?  
  1. Healthy conflict: Do you understand how emotions factor into developing strong working relationships and establishing the foundation of trust essential to making people feel comfortable with speaking up and sharing different perspectives and ideas? Are you able to check your own emotions, avoid becoming defensive, and foster “good conflict”?
  1. Team leadership: Are you sensitive to the impact of emotions on team morale and performance? Are you adept at assessing your team’s stress levels and mood to help them remain optimistic and productive? Can you apply emotionally intelligent communication when a team or team member encounters failure?  

Incorporating EI into your leadership practices takes conscious effort and ongoing commitment. To develop your EI leadership skills, self-assess your ability in each cornerstone. Identify the impact of your assessment on your leadership effectiveness. Then, develop goals for improvement. Emotionally intelligent leadership can produce lasting benefits for your team, your organization, and for you.

About AMA

American Management Association (AMA) is globally recognized as a leader in professional development. For nearly 100 years, it has helped millions of people bring about positive change in their performance in order to improve results. AMA’s learn-by-doing instructor-led methods, extensive content, and flexible learning formats are proven effective—and constantly evolve to meet the changing needs of individuals and organizations. To learn more, visit www.amanet.org.