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How to be a Leader with EQ

Emotional intelligence (also known as emotional quotient or EQ), is the ability to not only understand but manage emotions in productive way and is necessary to lead a team effectively through crisis.  In a remote or blended workforceemotions can be less apparent or more easily misconstrued, making EQ an invaluable quality.  

A leader with EQ is vital to helping employees avoid burnout and support mental health during these hard times and is essential to retaining and attracting talent. Below we dive into five important qualities of leaders with EQ and how they impact an organization. 



Leaders with a high EQ cultivate strong working relationships with their staff in order to best know how to support them. This means getting to know employees on a more personal level in order to understand who theare, what they are managing personally, and how to help them excel. 

A successful working environment requires trust.  If the environment is toxic, employees will not feel able to contribute meaningfully or take the needed risks to advanceFostering a positive environment, especially during the pandemic when many workers are remote, relies on relationship-oriented leadership. By having regular wellness checks with staff, leaders with high EQ establish a culture of trust and allow employees to feel seen and supported. It also helps employers notice when their staff may need additional support. 

One example of relationship-oriented leadership is Dan Glaser, CEO of Marsh & McLennan. His EQ was shown through the sincere and compassionate decision not to count sick days or vacation days until the pandemic is over. This level of care for each employees’ mental and physical wellbeing spoke to the value of the individual and displayed genuine support for his staff



A key trait of leaders with strong EQ is their decision-making tactics. These leaders position themselves to decide, rather than react. Rather than rush into an emotionally spurred decision, they analyze the situation, ask questions and research as needed. Because emotions are inextricably linked with our cognitive system, decision making by nature is not purely rational. What setapart a great leader is their ability to distinguish the rational and the emotional in order to make hard decisions, and in turn make better long term decisions for their team as a whole. 

Chris Gregoire, CEO of Challenge Seattle, brought together some of Seattle's most hard-hit businesses early in the outbreak. By insisting in a scientific-based response, she helped to coordinate a uniform crisis response between many large corporations. By acting early, aggressively, and in unison, this group of businesses helped to slow the virus’ spread while focusing on the best interest of their community.  



Leaders with high EQ not only understand when a member of their team is struggling, but they have the social awareness to understand how an issue may impact the business, people, and systems involved. Beyond identifying where the issue lies, leaders with high EQ work with their employees empathetically to help support them and attack problems strategically.  

Leading with compassion and genuine empathy for others is key to supporting a healthy teamAs mental health issues and burnout began to spike this summer, Google, along with several other companies including LaSalle Network, decided to give employees an extra day off to disconnect and relax. After observing increased emotional challenges in their people, leaders at Google thought ahead to the potential long-term consequences. Shutting the company down for one extra day was their way of putting their people first. 



Leaders with EQ not only ask employees how they are doing but also make the time to listen and prioritize responsesApproaching the concerns of staff with empathy and genuine interest, rather than to “check off a box” makes a difference. Leading with EQ can mean slowing down to work with an employee to resolve an issue, or being patient while helping them learn and develop to achieve a long-term career goal. 

As in many states children have remained home for eLearning, some companies like Patagonia have gone above and beyond for working parents by offering them increased flexibility. Beyond offering flexible hours for their working parents, they also allow them to shift project type as needed based on their childcare set up. Rather than have working parents work on time-sensitive tasks, they shifted to longer-term projects in order to allow for more flexibility within their workweeks. This is another example of leading with EQ and opting for patience when an employee's typical productivity may not be attainable during this time. 



Leaders with high EQ know when they need to reach out to others for help and do not shy away from honesty, even when it’s hard. They admit their mistakes and shortcomings and know when they need guidance from others to pull themselves back up.  

Leaders with strong EQ do not shy away from the hard conversations and are honest about both the good and the bad newsSince the start of the pandemic, Arne Sorenson of Marriott International has been upfront about the state of the company and the hard decisions being made. Rejecting pride and being honest with the public and his staff, he displayed steadiness and a strong EQ.  


Emotions matter, both in business and in life. Now as the two are more inextricably linked than ever, integrity, compassion and creativity is required to lead effectively. To instill sense of safety and belonging in their workforce, leaders need a high EQ and dedication to their people. This year leaders of people faced a stark new reality with minimal, if any, training and their relationships with staff have become strained as a result. In our new report, we discuss why 43% of survey respondent stated their relationship with their manager got worse since transitioning to remote work, and how to change that. You can download our Remote Manager Index here to learn more