Learning to Lead With Emotion

May 06, 2020 6:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Janet Kloser,

     Learning and Development Manager,


You can’t be a leader without followers, and people aren’t going to want to follow you if you have the “my way or the highway” mentality. That’s why managers need to be trained with empathy, emotional intelligence (EI), and compassion. Let’s review the differences:

  • Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of another.
  • EI is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express your emotions thoughtfully.
  • Compassion consists of sympathy and concern for others.

When it comes to empathy, you don’t have to agree with someone to be empathetic. Words like “It sounds like…” or “You must be feeling…” allow people to see you are acknowledging how they feel. It’s a powerful way of showing that you heard them and also that you recognize the impact it had on them.

What you shouldn’t do when someone needs empathy is compare what’s happening with that individual to someone else’s situation—“You lost one day’s worth of email? When Bill’s computer crashed, he lost all of his research.”

EI Versus IQ

Research shows EI is much more of an indicator of a successful leader than IQ. This is great news because unlike someone’s IQ, emotional intelligence can be learned and continuously improved upon, which we reinforce in our Emotionally Intelligent Leader class.

EI Skills

  • Reading body language
  • Deciphering tone of voice
  • Hearing word choices
  • Putting it all together
  • Meeting people where they are
  • Asking for clarity to better understand a situation

A very useful quality of an emotionally intelligent leader is his or her ability to develop employees. Someone with an abundance of EI is usually a great coach, one who gives spot-on feedback and is successful at working through conflict. An EI leader is going to manage people more effectively as individuals, driving employee engagement and retention, and often the bottom line.

Don’t Underestimate Compassion

Compassionate leaders understand that “I” isn’t an especially useful conversation starter, instead, they use “we” to help people feel like they are all in it together.

An important part of compassion is giving an employee your full attention. The amount of time you spend talking to and listening to employees is a sign of how important you consider them to be. During your time together, discussions (and disagreements) about work should be encouraged. When listened to, employees feel good about themselves and can become more committed to doing their job well.

Actions and attitudes are contagious. If a leader leads from a stressed out, “my way” kind place, everyone will be stressed and unhappy. But if a leader is mindful and takes into account empathy, EI, and compassion, there’s a good chance people will collaborate, share ideas, and feel valued.

The African Zulu tribe got it right. Their greeting, Sawubona means “I see you, you are important to me, and I value you.”

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