10 things leaders with emotional intelligence never do

High EQ leaders don't lose their cool. They don't swallow emotions. Learn about the behaviors to avoid as you build emotional intelligence
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You’ve read the books, you’ve taken the tests, and you’re now convinced: Emotional intelligence is a must-have skill for leaders – and yours needs work.

It’s ok. Most of us could improve aspects of our EQ. According to Daniel Goleman, known for his research on emotional intelligence, it has five key characteristics: Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

If you want to improve, it’s helpful to look for examples – leaders who have mastered all facets of their emotional intelligence – and learn some of their moves. However, some of these traits, like self-awareness, can be difficult to recognize in others.

[ Want to do more work on your EQ? See 10 emotional intelligence must-reads for leaders. ]

So let’s look at a few things leaders with high emotional intelligence never do. Keep these in mind, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a high EQ leader.

Leaders with high EQ do not:

1. Lose their cool: They won’t lose their temper and lash out at their team during meetings. They won’t send an impulsive email that they have to apologize for the next day. They think before they act, and they know how to calm themselves down in stressful or anxious situations. Some even harness the upside of stress.

2. Swallow their emotions: Keeping your cool doesn’t mean you’re an emotionless robot. Highly EQ leaders do experience stress, frustration, disappointment and other negative emotions. The difference is they can recognize these feelings as they are happening, and they can express them appropriately and constructively in the workplace. 

3. Let failure get them down: “Fail fast” is an IT mantra, but leaders with higher EQ are especially good at looking at the bright side of bad news and learning from mistakes or disappointments. That’s because they are intrinsically motivated by their work. It fuels their curiosity and connects them to a higher purpose. They stay motivated because they have their eye on the long-term prize, not the quick win. Not all experiments succeed, and experiments are valuable: See our related article,  Why agile leaders must move beyond talking about "failure." 

4. Hire on tech skills alone: Highly emotionally intelligent people are easily able to look past the resume to suss out the soft skills and emotional qualities that will make a candidate a good fit for their company’s culture. That’s because they are adept at reading people on an emotional level. Bottom line: if your high EQ colleague says they don’t have a “good gut feeling” about someone you are interviewing, you should take note.

[ How do you screen candidates for soft skills? Read 8 unusual IT interview questions and approaches: CIOs share. ]

5. Say yes to everything: Being emotionally intelligent doesn’t mean you are a people pleaser or a yes-man/woman. High EQ leaders won’t say yes to everything because they deeply understand their own strengths and weaknesses. They are confident in their abilities, but they also own up to the areas where they need help – and they aren’t afraid to ask for it. They also hold their ground in debates. If they don’t agree with you, they’ll tell you. That’s what makes high EQ leaders extremely trustworthy.

6. Interrupt: Have a colleague who is constantly talking over people on conference calls? It’s a sign that they need to work on their empathy skills. High EQ leaders give you their full, undivided attention, listening to your viewpoints, and seeking to understand your perspective.

Emotionally intelligent leaders use conflicts as opportunities.

7. Avoid conflicts: Confrontations with peers can often be tough, but high EQ people don’t shy away from difficult conversations. Emotionally intelligent leaders use conflicts as opportunities to build deeper trust, find common ground, and strengthen their working relationships with others.

8. Pile on: Because emotionally intelligent people have strong self-worth and motivation that comes from within, they are fulfilled in their roles. Because they are empathetic and sensitive to the emotions of others, they want their teams to be just as happy and fulfilled as they are. They will recognize when someone on their team is struggling or stressed and take steps to ease their load – not pile on work.

9. Hold grudges: Emotionally intelligent people do what they need to do to manage stress and anxiety in their lives and in their work environment. Holding onto anger is pointless to high EQ people. They will also protect themselves from the source of that anger at all costs.

10. Shoot down new ideas: Don’t be afraid to present a new idea to your high EQ boss, even if it goes against an idea of theirs. Yes, emotionally intelligent leaders have confidence in their own decisions, but they are also critical thinkers. They will hear you out and be open to taking risks and changing course for the good of the project and the team.

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Carla Rudder is a community manager and program manager for The Enterprisers Project. She enjoys bringing new authors into the community and helping them craft articles that showcase their voice and deliver novel, actionable insights for readers.