The Standout Traits of Leaders with High EQ


High EQ (emotional quotient) is measured by how leaders manage and interpret their emotions and those of their teams. Organisations with high EQ leaders are more likely to make rational decisions during crises and keep employees working together. 

According to scientific author Daniel Goleman, individuals with high EQ share five traits that drive their behaviour. These include empathy, motivation, self-awareness, social skills, and self-regulation. Combining these traits can help a leader optimise the workforce by effectively creating D&I (diversity and inclusion) strategies. 

While some leaders may naturally possess some of these traits, the good news is that they are learnable. With sufficient practice, all leaders and decision-makers have the opportunity to drive their organisation forward with the power of EQ. 


Self-awareness is possibly the most critical trait among the five, which binds them together. Self-aware leaders understand the lasting impact that their emotions have on organisational decisions and their effect on relationships at work. 

Psychologist Sherrie Campbell explains the ripple effect in her book (Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person), “When leaders are grounded, they are able to be efficient and deliberate in staying on task and being attuned to those around them. Leaders who have the ability to control their minds and emotions help to guide those around them to develop their own self-knowledge and success.”

To achieve a state of self-awareness, leaders need to cast aside their ego and focus on the big picture (i.e., how their decisions can benefit the organisation as a whole. Often, leaders need to slow down and fully process a situation to prevent potentially explosive assumptions. 

Self-awareness includes prioritising firm control over verbal and non-verbal communication and the ability to inspire employees without causing grievances or misunderstandings. 


Self-regulation is another core trait of leaders with high EQ. Some leaders may mistake self-regulation for self-awareness. While they are correlated, self-awareness is merely recognising emotions, and self-regulation refers to the actions taken accordingly. 

Through self-regulation, leaders tweak their instinctual responses (based on emotion) to benefit those around them and towards fulfilling positive organisational progress and outcomes. 

For example, instead of reacting furiously towards employee absenteeism, high EQ leaders may take on a more empathetic approach, avoiding tension while investigating the reason behind the behavior.  

Self-regulated leaders hold themselves accountable for their errors and miscalculations at the workplace. These leaders move away from a blame culture where employees may feel marginalised or maligned. A leader who admits to mistakes in a transparent manner displays a humanised vulnerability that can win and maintain the respect of employees.   


With self-regulation comes the need for empathy. According to Forbes Council Member Brian Tait, empathy acts as a glue between relations. Leaders with high EQ understand that a bit of empathy can go a long way, making employees feel valued and appreciated for their contributions. 

Through empathetic leadership, employees will feel like they are working with rather than for leaders. As modern workforce trends show, while hierarchy is still necessary to maintain a systematic order at work, a strictly top-down approach is fading into obsolescence.

Top-down management (“because I said so” practices) leads to many underlying issues that prevent the success of D&I (a crucial ingredient in modern companies). Some significant disadvantages of unempathetic leadership include employee disengagement, creative dry spells, and poor succession planning. 

Additionally, with empathy, leaders can often diagnose a problem (i.e., worker dissatisfaction) and intervene before things escalate beyond control. In some cases, empathy might be the difference between retaining or losing staff. 


Leaders with high EQ exhibit highly infectious optimism and enthusiasm in their words and actions. By embodying positive attitudes, high EQ leaders motivate others by incentivising good practices and raising the overall morale at work to understand what people do and why they do them. 

High EQ leaders have a constant drive to succeed, building a positive workplace atmosphere fueled by mutual respect. Goal setting is a staple among motivated leaders and teams. Additionally, they ensure that they constantly revise and improve those goals to keep the organisation purposeful, relevant, and focused on a worthy cause. 

Motivated leaders have a sense of integrity and conviction in every aspect of their professional life (and usually beyond). By staying motivated and motivating others, leaders can earn the trust of employees, partners, and customers. 

Social Skills 

A synergy of interpersonal skills usually makes high EQ leaders effective communicators. They have a flair for keeping teams together despite remote arrangements. 

From frequent check-ins on a messaging platform to a casual chat at the workplace pantry, high EQ leaders regularly display positive social skills on and off-site. 

Additionally, leaders with excellent EQ can instinctively apply the most appropriate social skills required for specific scenarios, such as conflict resolution or acknowledging/praising employees for a job well done.

Ultimately, socials skills is an umbrella term that includes various abilities that enhance professional interactions. Specifically, social skills soothe the emotional riptide in others and help them achieve the best decisions without distraction.  

Quality socials skills don’t necessarily involve specialized body language or linguistic know-how.  Subtle actions such as eye contact, smiles, and nods can profoundly impact employees, creating a positive environment for them to put their best foot forward. 

Why Hone EQ Now?

The world is becoming increasingly remote. Leaders will face a more challenging time building quality relationships with their staff with decentralised workstations and offices. Screen-to-screen communication creates a bubble that minimises the efficiency of employee interactions.  

However, human dynamics remains a core requirement in running an organisation – companies need quality talents to function and thrive regardless of tech advances in AI and other sophisticated systems.  

EQ is the best way around it, and now is the time to act as most offices apply a hybrid approach to operations. Leaders still have the opportunity to make the most out of face-to-face interaction, instilling a positive work culture that transcends physical barriers – if remote work ever becomes a permanent industry standard. 

StrengthsAsia has helped many individuals and corporate clients empower leaders throughout the region by enabling breakthrough experiences for both leaders and followers. If you wish to learn more about the Strengths Leadership Program, please reach out to us here.

A devotee at the altar of language and a celebrant of expression. Laurenzo has written for various SMEs, MNCs, startups and international brands over the last three years. He specializes in topics of psychology, lifestyle, employee management, and digital trends.

Maalikka is the latest addition to StrengthsAsia’s team of marketing and content extraordinaries. As an avid reader, writer and learner, she’s always on the lookout for new information online or interesting conversations to inspire her. Her other passions include gaming, Netflix and cats.

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