by Andrea Charman

Becoming an emotionally intelligent leader

How do you raise your game? How do you improve your ability to be an emotionally intelligent leader? How do you know if you’re not like that?

The important question here is this: what is your mental image of yourself? It’s about having a positive mental image that’s always with you. You need to see yourself in action. You should practise and rehearse the necessary skills, just like an actor or a ballet dancer (see also the topics on Presentations and NLP – Managing your state).

To do this effectively, you need self awareness. So, what’s your message? Do you know? If not, get learning fast! For a start, if you were to ask those around you to describe you in three or four words, what words would they choose? What is your brand? See the topic on Personal Brand and Networking – Personal branding.



Sometimes, the most honest feedback you will get will come from the kids in your life – from young people (not necessarily your own children).

Effective leaders consistently seek feedback and act on it. From whom should you seek feedback? The source must be appropriate. If you are front line, then you are most likely to seek feedback from customers. If you are middle management, then the feedback should come from people who report to you, seniors or peers.

If you’re the chief executive, then seeking feedback gets tough, because no-one want to give you unwelcome messages! One source of useful feedback might be peers in other organisations (in this context, your peers could well be business rather than personal friends).

Introvert or extrovert?

You don’t have to be an instinctive extrovert to be an effective and emotionally intelligent leader. Reflective and more introverted leaders can be successful, but they need to be aware of consciously getting their message across using their developed capabilities of empathy, social responsibility, personal skills and so on.


It might be useful to keep in mind the concept of star performer profiles. This is anchored in research that shows that someone who’s an effective and emotionally intelligent leader in one context may not be immediately transferable to another. This might require more self reflection and enhanced levels of EQ.


A major brewery, owning a chain of gastro pubs and grub pubs had an attrition rate among their managers of about 70 per cent. Recruitment costs were consequently huge. They realised that in this context they needed managers with EI skills, but they also needed to refine the criteria further.

They decided to scan all of their outlets to pick up those people who were really successful so they could then put them through EI measures. They discovered that these particular managers were strong on certain sub-components of EI. As a result of this exercise, the company went looking for managers with these particular abilities, and within a few months levels had dropped to below 50 per cent.

As you are developing your emotional intelligence as a leader, therefore, you will become aware that you might have to tap into different parts of emotional intelligence skill set to suit a new context.

Time for reflection

This is where self reflection/self management comes in. Part of self management is taking time to reflect. Some people have an instinctively higher level of self reflection than others; the critical issue is not to under- or over-do it: too much self reflection might lead to inertia, while lack of self reflection can lead to impulsive and inappropriate actions.

Practical tip

How useful you find this idea will depend on your learning style, but most people will benefit from keeping a journal and jotting down things that come to mind. What has happened during the day and how well (or not) did I handle it? This fixes it in your mind (through dual encoding).

Use your journal to capture learnings.


With reference to the example given above, just as we have shared this cameo with you to assist you in your journey to leadership, so it is worth remembering that great leaders are great storytellers, because people remember the story and context. Don’t forget to be contextually appropriate, however. For example, don’t tell stories about alcohol if you have Muslim women in your team! And don’t tell stories that go on forever. (See the topic on Storytelling for business.)

See also the topic on Emotional Intelligence which includes lots of practical advice and tips on how to improve your levels of EQ.