4 Critical Traits of Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

I had an outstanding day on Friday! I spoke at a women’s professional conference on Emotional Intelligence and how the science relates to a leader's overall well-being. You can see a picture of me with some of the leaders of this fantastic event below. 489FD9BF-E176-4CF0-8D1E-6FBB8C3C3EBC

Well-being is a fascinating topic. When I was researching the topic as it relates to leadership, I discovered that the term is really a measure for happiness.

How happy are you with certain aspects of your life?  Things like:

  • Your health - spiritual, psychological, and physical
  • Your economic situation
  • Your social relationships

Every year the Gallup organization does a domestic and global survey for well-being. They ask a series of questions relating to people's social, financial, community, and physical well-being. From a global perspective, the citizens of Panama lead the world in overall well-being. Domestically, folks who live in Alaska and Hawaii are living the most intentional and purposeful lives. If you want to see how your state ranks, click here to access the report.

Well-being is a feeling of overall contentment and satisfaction in the life of the leader.  In the emotional intelligence model* we utilize in our training, the idea of well-being is a surrogate for happiness.

The Four Traits

The leadership attributes we use to measure well-being are self-regard, self-actualization, optimism, and interpersonal relationships.

Our research has shown that a leader who excels at these four traits is well on their way to living a purposeful and intentional life. People who score high in these dimensions almost always maintain a happy disposition in all aspects of life. They usually enjoy the company of others, feel like the life they are leading is intentional, and are in control of their emotions most of the time.

Those who score lower in these traits may find it difficult to be enthusiastic about life no matter their personality style or circumstance. Their overall happiness may actually begin to diminish natural strengths and tendencies toward success that they have shown in the past. This dampened energy can make it difficult for others to see past their dissatisfaction with life.

So How Are You Doing?

Have you stepped back lately and thought about your own personal well-being as a leader? This is important because your followers have the ability, sometimes even unconsciously, to know how you are doing, even if you are trying your best to put on a front. Your well-being may be having an unintentional performance impact on your entire team!

Below I have included a definition for each of the four attributes, and a question you can ask yourself to get you started thinking about your own personal leadership and how your well-being might be enhancing or inhibiting your leadership performance.

  • Self-Regard is the confidence you have in yourself. Question: What is your ability to acknowledge your strengths and forgive yourself for your weaknesses?
  • Self-Actualization is your willingness to improve and pursue meaningful personal goals that give you enjoyment. Question: Do you have an active plan for attaining short-term and long-term goals?
  • Optimism is an indicator of your outlook on life. The level of hopefulness and resiliency you have in the face of setbacks. Question: When things do not go your way, how do you talk to yourself? Are you able to pivot from the initial negative thoughts or does the negativity overwhelm you?
  • Interpersonal Relationships are a measure of the mutually satisfying relationships that are characterized by trust and compassion. Question: Do you rely more on yourself to get things done or are you willing to ask others to help so they get to experience the joy of serving alongside you?

Well-being is a crucial aspect of a leader's life because of the impact it has on both the leader and the followers. Your overall physical, spiritual, and emotional health depend upon this critical dimension.

What are you doing as a leader to ensure your success in this area?


Find a person in your life who knows you well. Each of you write one paragraph on the above well-Being traits. They will write how they see you and you write how you see you. Then read out loud what you have written. Talk about what is positive that you need to continue and talk about any barriers that could be holding you back.

If you try this journaling exercise, why not drop me a note in the comments section below? I would love to hear about the experience you have had.

PS. If you have a group that would be interested in knowing more about Emotional Intelligence or how well-being relates to leadership, let me know. I would love to come and be a part of the discussion.

*Bar-On EQ-i published by Multi-Health Systems