Qualities Emotionally Intelligent Leaders Practice to Better Themselves and Impact Others’ Lives

6 years ago, an Indian-American man took over as CEO of one of the world’s largest companies. He had spent most of his career in the organization and yet wasn’t well known to the business world. In fact, he was thought of as a surprising choice to replace a successful CEO, Steve Ballmer. And of course, to walk in the long shadow of giant, Bill Gates.

Satya Nadella inherited a culture at Microsoft of bickering, infighting, and distrust. Nadella’s focus was first on getting people throughout the organization to actually speak to one another. To care for each other and communicate in a way that led to growth, productivity, and renewed relationships.

He recommended that leaders (and their direct reports) read a book called, Nonviolent Communication, which would help them heal and become more empathetic and kinder toward one another.


Wow! Think about that — one of the world’s largest companies focusing more on kindness and listening than bottom-line profit.


It worked.


Over six years later, Nadella has led a total return of over $1 Trillion in investor profits, improved the culture of the organization, and led Microsoft further into the 20th century. Mostly due to leading with empathy, self-awareness, and authenticity, Nadella won over the old guard and the new and united the company.


Emotional intelligence is a skill set all of us can use to our advantage. It can be used to improve success at the world’s leading businesses, and it can also be practiced in how we lead in our communities, as entrepreneurs and at home. Here are three major qualities of emotionally intelligent leaders that you can adopt and use in becoming better each day.


They’re in it for a team victory

One of my favorite guiding quotes is “I give without expecting anything in return.” When you unleash the power of that mindset you end up with more opportunities. When you lead with that frame of reference, you’re acting selflessly and looking for a team victory. Whether that’s for one person, two, 20 or 10,000, give your value to others with a servant’s heart.


By doing so, you begin to think about other people as people, you form connections and show them that you care. You put their needs first and model a key component of EQ: empathy. Empathetic people are caring, great listeners, and genuinely devote time to help other people grow.


Look at the big picture. Look at the team victory.


They’re highly adaptable

Emotionally intelligent leaders never let temporary defeat or hardship stop them. This is especially important during the age of coronavirus. Maybe you were just passed up for a promotion — or maybe you had a job offer taken away at the last minute. Maybe you’re having to pass that bad news on to others. It’s tough. Adapting and moving forward is the only way.


One of the great stories of adaptability is J.K. Rowling. She was physically and verbally abused. Her marriage ended in misery. She was on the U.K. equivalent of welfare and worrying about how she’d feed her daughter.


She didn’t drown in sorrow. She started writing. She had the courage to keep going and put herself out there with her work. Eventually, she published the first book in the “Harry Potter” series and has gone on to become one of the most successful authors in history. She decided she would never give up and she behaved with persistence and perseverance to achieve her dreams.


You will encounter adversity and changes that force you to adapt and modify your plan. The emotionally intelligent leader is always ready to make changes. They say, “I will move on. I can do this.”


They communicate clearly and positively

Former PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi, was a master of emotionally intelligent leadership. She was a positive communicator that always showed she valued the people she led. She once said,


“You need to be able to look at that person and say, ‘I value you as a person. I know that you have a life beyond PepsiCo, and I’m going to respect you for your entire life, not just treat you as Employee Number 4,567.’"


Incredible. How many leaders say that? Talk about endearing yourself to someone beyond the parts of getting the job done.


Don’t mince words. Be clear in your intentions, be transparent in what you say you’re going to do, and make sure the people you’re speaking to understand you. That last part is incredibly important. Make sure the message is as clear to them as it is to you. Always have a positive outlook and don’t let temporary discouragement or disappointment influence your long-term messaging.


Concluding thoughts: Emotional intelligence is a skill set you can acquire and use every day. Lead with empathy and kindness, be a clear, positive communicator. And be willing to adapt to whatever life throws at you.


Want to learn more? Find out the emotional intelligence work I do.


Chris Connors; Author & Executive Coach

Mission is to help leaders and organizations reach their biggest goals by using emotional intelligence to succeed; he does this by speaking nationally, teaching workshops, coaching, and through his books and blog.


Author of two bestselling books. And seen on CNBC, World Economic Forum, Virgin, Quartz, Thrive Global and Medium.

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