Expert Commentary

The Emotional Intelligence Competencies of an Effective Leader

Are you a leader? Or just a manager? What's the difference, you ask? If you don't know, you're probably in the wrong job.

Employee Hiring, Development, and Retention
July 2013

A leader energizes and motivates a sales force to achieve seemingly impossible goals. A manager makes sure the sales process works. A leader has a powerful sense of mission and purpose. A manager makes sure call reports are in on time. Leaders innovate. Managers manage. Understanding the difference between leading and managing is understanding the difference between winning and losing in cut-throat markets. Pure managers make the system work, but leaders make things happen. They make the people around them better.

In my experience as a management consultant, I've come to realize that the most effective leaders have a certain "mindset" that allows them to truly put actions behind these words, and that separates them from just being a "manager."

Leaders Think Differently

Here's an example of how effective leaders think:

The most powerful aspects of my people are their feelings and personal concerns. People do unreasonable things because of how they feel about someone or something. I will listen to them when they express concerns about our business or communicate with strong feelings. I know that when I care about what is important to them, they are then able to care about what is important to me.
The world and other people are not necessarily consistent or predictable; therefore, I will watch and experiment to see what works and does not work in leading my people to get desired results. I will pay attention to how people and things change. I will also give most of my attention and support to my most competent and productive people. I will always acknowledge another's efforts on my behalf because I appreciate people trying on my behalf, and I want that person to want to respond to my requests in the future.
One of my key roles is to preserve the principles and direction of the business; therefore, I will be diligent to protect and maintain our environment that provides the same working environment and direction for my people. I will also provide clear expectations of what is success and acknowledge those successes when they are reached. I will keep my people informed so they always know how well they are doing and how their efforts are part of the success of the whole company.
When I am present and involved, I make a positive difference. Therefore, I will stay involved in things that I want to see accomplished. Because I make a positive difference, I will make a point of encouraging my people. I am in this position because I am good at what I do; therefore, I will support others toward their own success.

The above "mindset" will only be present if the leader is attentive to and has mastery in the following emotional intelligence competencies.

Intuition and Empathy

This is the leader's awareness of his or her direct reports' feelings, needs, and concerns. This competency is important in leadership for the following reasons.

  • Attitude toward others: Leaders' ability to look positively and objectively on their direct reports and genuinely want their people to succeed
  • Understanding others: An intuitive sense of their direct reports' feelings, perspectives, and goals, and showing an active interest in their needs

Practical Thinking

This is leaders' ability at inducing desirable actions from their direct reports. This competency is important in leadership for the following reasons.

  • Communication: Sending clear messages and directions and keeping their people informed
  • Influence: Using effective tactics and techniques to get desired results


This is leaders' ability to be in tune with their roles and the power they yield to clearly see how their words and actions impact their people.

  • Self-confidence: Believing in their own abilities and strengths to personally take charge in making things happen and to bring energy to their people
  • Self-control: Controlling their emotions and avoiding emotional highs and lows and emotional outbursts that can alarm and frustrate those who work for them. This includes the ability to maintain calm in the face of adversity.


This is leaders' emotional tendencies that guide or facilitate reaching goals and their sense of personal commitment to responsibilities. This competency is important in leadership for the following reasons.

  • Achievement drive: Striving to improve or meet a standard of excellence we impose in ourselves
  • Initiative: Readiness to act on opportunities without having to be told


During the past century, leadership has been one of the most talked about, written about, and studied topics in the world. More than 18,000 books listed on discuss leadership in some way, and a search on "leadership" through Google results in more than 167 million hits. In no way are we saying that the competencies outlined above are the only key to effective leadership, but we know that being attentive to and having mastery of these competencies will set you on the right path to becoming an effective leader within your organization.

Mike Poskey is president of ZERORISK HR, Inc., a Dallas-based human resources risk management firm and exclusive provider of ZERORISK Hiring System. For more information, visit or email Mike at .

Opinions expressed in Expert Commentary articles are those of the author and are not necessarily held by the author's employer or IRMI. Expert Commentary articles and other IRMI Online content do not purport to provide legal, accounting, or other professional advice or opinion. If such advice is needed, consult with your attorney, accountant, or other qualified adviser.

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