How Successful Women Lead with Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a critical leadership trait that recognizes, understands, and manages one’s emotions as well as others. Successful women often excel in this skill as many learn from personal experience as caretakers. Learn to cultivate emotional intelligence and how to apply it as a leader below.

Empathy in leadership matters. In the past we talked about IQ—and empathy was soft. In reality, it’s human capital.

Thasunda Brown Duckett (President and CEO of TIAA)

Women Leaders Deliver Results

How to Cultivate Emotional Intelligence

Be Observant 

Often, emotions are not overtly stated or expressed in the workplace, especially to managers. Work environments tend to lean toward pointing fingers when mistakes happen, leading to a cycle of blame. If you observe how your team approaches situations, you can start to work more proactively. 


Emotional intelligence applies to one’s awareness of body language and verbal communication. It is important for leaders to understand how others perceive them and how they physically show up in professional spaces. Mentors are valuable resources to help professional women notice their blind spots and become more self-aware of their areas of growth.

Emotional Regulation

As executives, it is vital that our emotions do not influence our decision-making process. Successful leaders know themselves and their reactions very well. Take time to learn what triggers your anger, frustration, or anxiety and how to return to a level-headed state of mind. 

Social Awareness

Leaders are the driving force behind their teams. Whether you are extroverted or introverted, become comfortable with engaging those around you. Social awareness means understanding the relationships your team has with each other and how you can resolve conflict, promote collaboration, and instill gratitude. Networking can be one way to practice social awareness with groups of professionals. The more you attend events, the more you will become comfortable forming relationships.


The best way for your team to trust they can turn to you when they make a mistake is when you take accountability for your mistakes. It transforms your impact on your team, the results, and the overall company culture. Learn how you can become an accountable leader here.


One of the key aspects of emotional intelligence is empathy. The more you understand the point-of-view of others, the better your communication and leadership skills become. Provide grace and support when you can, and you’ll see your team blossom.

How to Lead with Emotional Intelligence

1. Listen without judgment

When someone misses a deadline or screws up on a simple task, it can be easy to slip into judgemental thoughts. Yet, your perspective may be missing a few details. Perhaps someone had to take their child to the ER suddenly and couldn’t finish their work on time. Come to each meeting with as few preconceived notions as possible and listen with an open mind.

2. Stay curious

Questions are the lifeblood of any executive. They help assess situations, understand possible obstacles, and support team members from becoming overworked. The more you stay curious and ask questions, the more information you will have to make the right decision. 

Curiosity also helps you understand your employees better. Not everyone has the same values, lived experiences, and learning processes. Fostering inclusive workspaces includes developing an awareness of differing world views. 

3. Invest personally in employees

Emotionally investing in those you work with will massively change the work environment. We all want to be seen, valued and cared for in any community we are a part of. Have one-on-one check-ins to understand how each team member handles their work and what areas you can support them. These meetings will invest in their professional growth to achieve their goals over time.

For more ways to invest in employees, here are six ways to take advantage of the Great Resignation

4. Create a learning environment

As stated earlier, social awareness and observance are key aspects of emotional intelligence. We are bound to make mistakes as we challenge ourselves. Blame and excuses can bog down projects wasting time and money. Successful leaders can see every problem as a learning opportunity that promotes collaboration. 

IAW Influencer Deep Laxmi, VP of Quality Unit at Aspen Neuroscience and founder of Self Image Academy knows that there are no shortcuts to success. She studied human potential and the science of success for over 25 years, and found the best success accelerator is mentoring and coaching. Connect with Deep in the IAW community to learn from her years of experience and understand how you can become a better leader.

5. Conflict resolution

Work environments do not always coexist peacefully. Dealing with conflict is part and parcel of any leader’s job. Conflict resolution takes time and practice, but here are some tips to get you started. 

6. Adjust Your Communication Style

As leaders climb the ladder, the number of people on our team may increase exponentially, and you’ll likely work with various people across different departments. Communication is vital in many aspects of life, but especially for leaders. There are plenty of tips on how to communicate effectively, but one of the best is to use active listening skills to build trust.

7. Practice Gratitude

Nothing says emotional intelligence like recognizing the work and effort of those around you. Gratitude is one of the simplest ways to uplift those around you. Practice as an individual or get the whole team involved. 

Growing professionally does not have to be a solitary experience. The International Association of Women provides our global community personalized roadmaps, weekly webinars, a free resource library, unlimited networking events, and local chapters.

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