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This article is a follow-up to “Understanding Your Emotional Intelligence: A Beginner’s Guide.” If you haven’t had a chance to read that one yet, I highly recommend you head over and check it out. Trust me, it’ll give you some valuable context for what we’re diving into here.

In Patrick Lencioni’s engaging book The Motive, he digs deep into what really drives people to become leaders. It’s not just about the position or the power; it’s about the heart and soul behind why someone chooses to take on this important role. And as Lencioni reveals, the reasons are sometimes not as noble as we might think.

Reward-Centered Leadership: Some leaders are in it for themselves. They see being in charge as a personal prize or a badge of honor. It’s about getting more status, more power, or more perks. But this way of leading can be harmful. It can make a leader self-centered and forgetful of what true leadership is about. The result? Trouble within the team and the whole organization.

Responsibility-Centered Leadership: Then, there are those who see leadership as a serious duty. They’re in it to serve others, not themselves. These leaders put the organization’s and the people’s needs first. They’re concerned about what they can contribute rather than what they can take. This way of leading creates healthy, successful environments where people work together for a common goal.

The Motive is like a heartfelt call to all those in leadership positions. It urges them to look deep inside and ask the question: “Why am I doing this?” Is it for the rewards, or is it to truly make a difference?

By shifting the focus from what they can get to what they can give, leaders have the opportunity to build relationships based on trust, encourage team collaboration, and create organizations driven by purpose and integrity. This isn’t just a good business strategy; it’s about making a meaningful impact on the lives of the people they lead. It’s about leading with authenticity and heart, and that’s a lesson that resonates with all of us, whether we’re leading a team or just leading our own lives.

Emotional Intelligence in Modern Leadership

Being a leader doesn’t mean you have to be the smartest person in the room or the most organized; it’s about deeply understanding people’s feelings, values, and personal goals and using that insight to create positive change. In fact, quite often, the smartest person in the room often makes for a very poor leader.

What we’re diving into is something deeply human and vital to our interactions with others. It’s known as emotional intelligence. This isn’t a cold, abstract concept – it’s a living, breathing part of how we understand and connect with people around us. In the words of Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, “Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships… It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results.”

In their insightful book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Bradberry and Greaves break down Emotional Intelligence into four key components that help leaders understand themselves, manage their behavior, connect with others, and foster strong relationships: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management.

Emotional intelligence is something we all can relate to, something we all experience. It’s about recognizing our own feelings and those of others, and then using that awareness to navigate our relationships and make decisions that bring positive change. It’s a tool, a skill, and a pathway to becoming more authentic, compassionate, and effective in our lives.

Leading with Heart

I’ve stood witness to two very different ways of leading people. One way is by flexing your muscles, showing strength, and using force. The other? Well, it’s something softer, more human, more real: leading with empathy.

Now, you might think it’s easier to just lay down the law and demand respect. But trust me, that’s just dipping your toe in the water. Real, true leadership – the kind that people remember, the kind that makes a difference – needs more. It needs the bravery to be open and caring, to connect with your team not as a distant authority figure but as a fellow human being. It’s about leading with genuine compassion and understanding.

And let me tell you, it doesn’t just feel good; it works. This compassionate approach doesn’t just satisfy the soul; it pushes everyone further. It helps the team grow, achieve, and become something greater together.

This isn’t about being soft; it’s about being wise. It’s about recognizing that force can move people, but empathy? Empathy can truly inspire them. That’s the kind of leadership that sticks with people, that guides them not just through one challenge but through life. That’s the kind of leadership I believe in.

Being a leader doesn’t just mean ordering people around; it involves connecting with their emotions and guiding them in the right direction. As Daniel Goleman succinctly puts it, “Without a healthy dose of heart, a supposed ‘leader’ may manage – but he does not lead.” He goes on to say, “Emotionally intelligent leaders build resonance by tuning into people’s feelings – their own and others’ – and guiding them in the right direction.”

Here are some practical ways to cultivate the courage needed to lead with emotional intelligence, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and connect deeply with others:

  1. Embrace Self-Awareness: Spend time reflecting on your emotions, understanding what triggers them, and how they impact your behavior. This self-insight can lead to greater emotional control and a deeper connection with others.
  2. Practice Empathy: Work on truly understanding and sharing the feelings of others. This includes active listening, asking open-ended questions, and being present in conversations. Empathy builds trust and opens the door to deeper connections.
  3. Be Open and Honest: Share your thoughts and feelings openly with your team. This honesty can foster a safe environment where others feel comfortable being vulnerable too.
  4. Cultivate a Safe Environment: Build a team culture where vulnerability is respected, not exploited. A sense of safety allows people to take risks and be their authentic selves.
  5. Encourage Feedback: Create a culture where feedback is welcomed and valued. Encouraging honest feedback helps in recognizing blind spots and offers opportunities for growth.
  6. Invest in Relationships: Spend quality time with team members, understanding their needs, and supporting them. These connections create a stronger emotional bond and a more cohesive team.
  7. Provide Support and Encouragement: Support others in their growth, whether it’s through professional development opportunities or simply being there to listen. Encouragement goes a long way in building confidence.

Dare to Lead with Emotional Courage

In her book Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts, Brené Brown brings an additional, crucial element to the leadership conversation. She emphasizes the importance of vulnerability, bravery, and empathy, asserting that these are at the heart of great leadership. Brown posits that true leaders must have the courage to lead from the heart: “We desperately need more leaders who are committed to courageous, wholehearted leadership and who are self-aware enough to lead from their hearts, rather than unevolved leaders who lead from hurt and fear.” She further insists, “Daring leaders must care for and be connected to the people they lead.”


Emotional intelligence provides us with a roadmap toward a kinder, more understanding, and more effective leadership style. As we continue to grow in our careers and aspire to be leaders, we should strive to be brave enough to show our feelings, connect with our teams on a profound, human level, and lead with love, not just power.

Emotional Intelligence isn’t just a theory; it’s a real practice that can help us transition from being mere managers to becoming genuine leaders. By adopting these principles, we can create a work environment where everyone feels heard, valued, and motivated to do their best. The power of leading with emotional intelligence is profound—it doesn’t just change us; it can change the entire world around us.

Nicholas Cardot

The transformation begins with you. Develop the leader inside you and become the driving influence your community is looking for.

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