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Employee Hiring, Development, and Retention

Emotional Intelligence Competencies of an Effective Leader

Mike Poskey | July 5, 2024

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A smiling leader is standing up talking to his coworkers in a meeting room

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. 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 cutthroat markets. Pure managers make the system work, but leaders make things happen and 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.

How Effective Leaders Think

Here is an example of how the most effective leaders view their employees and their role as a leader.

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, then they are 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 their direct reports' feelings, needs, and concerns. This competency is important in leadership for the following reasons.

  • Attitude toward others. This is the leader's ability to look positively and objectively upon their direct reports and genuinely want their people to succeed.
  • Understanding others. An intuitive sense of their direct reports' feelings, perspectives, and goals, as well as showing an active interest in their needs.

Practical Thinking

This is the leaders' ability to induce 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.
  • Influencing. Using effective tactics and techniques to get desired results.


This refers to 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. Their ability to believe in their own abilities and strengths to personally take charge in making things happen and to bring energy to their people.
  • Self-control. Their ability to control their emotions and avoid emotional highs and lows, as well as emotional outbursts that can alarm and frustrate those that work for them. The ability to maintain calm in the face of adversity.

Self Expectations

This is the leader's 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 on ourselves.
  • Initiative. Readiness to act on opportunities without having to be told to do so.


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 of "leadership" with Google results in more than 167 million hits. In no way are we saying that the competencies outlined above are the only ones that are 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.

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