5 Qualities of Emotional Intelligence

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Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to understand and recognize one’s own emotions and those of others. To grasp the value of emotional intelligence and apply that knowledge to their leadership styles, managers need to be aware of the key attributes of those who possess high EQ. Leaders who embody these qualities along with technical skills and experience are on a distinctive path for success in their professions. The following five qualities of EQ illustrate traits leaders need to rise to the top.


The first step in attaining a high level of emotional intelligence is understanding and knowing oneself. Self-awareness enables people to be honest with themselves and to accept and harness their strengths, weaknesses, desires, and shortcomings in order to make appropriate life and business decisions. People who are self-aware are able to recognize how their emotions and actions affect themselves and other people, as well as the performance of their jobs. In stressful work environments, leaders who are self-aware can more easily deal with the stresses and pressures that come their way, such as difficult clients, tight deadlines, and other demanding situations. Knowing one’s own emotional triggers can be helpful for leaders to defuse potentially hostile situations by taking a step back, realizing how they are feeling, and acting in a controlled and effective manner.


Another aspect of EQ involves discipline and self-regulation. Individuals with this attribute are able to control their impulses, which includes maintaining calm and not overreacting to mistakes. Leaders who take the time to think and reflect on a difficult situation or missed opportunity are more apt to uncover their own errors and the errors made by their team. Along with letting go of mistakes, emotional intelligence enables people to say ‘no’ both to themselve, and to others. By confidently saying ‘no’ to some requests and commitments, leaders show that they value their current commitments and are able to set boundaries, allowing them to successfully complete the tasks they choose to take on. Essentially, self-regulation is a skill that enables leaders to intelligently react to, embrace, and adapt to change. Change happens quickly and without warning, so managers who are comfortable with ambiguity and can pivot smoothly during times of transition will reap benefits at work.


Empathy refers to the awareness and consideration of the feelings of others. This dimension of EQ is essential in many aspects of life, although may seem out of place in the competitive world of business leadership and management. However, leaders who exhibit empathy are able to build relationships and gain the trust of clients, team members, and fellow managers. Empathy is necessary for understanding new cultures and business environments, and for avoiding conflict and misunderstandings, especially in the increasingly globalized business world. Managers who show empathy to their teams foster trust and strong relationships, which bolster employee loyalty.


Emotionally intelligent leaders are motivated and have the ability to motivate others. They have a passion for achieving their goals and are driven not by rewards such as money and prestige, but by accomplishing what they set out to do. Motivation pushes leaders to work tirelessly in the face of challenges, to ask questions about the ways things are done, and to explore new methods for improving themselves and others. Their desire to learn and pride in their work set an example that is often emulated by their teams and their organization. This is why motivated leaders are so adept at inspiring the people around them to grow, improve, and succeed.

Social skills

Social skills are essential for emotional intelligence in the work environment. Having effective social skills encompasses all of the attributes of EQ. Leaders put these skills to use in managing relationships and achieving goals. Most individuals—even the most successful, charismatic leaders—are not able to accomplish important objectives alone. Possessing social skills does not just mean being friendly to others. It involves understanding people, developing relationships, and motivating others to accomplish objectives. Leaders must communicate to their teams the passion they have for their organization and their strategies for collaborative success.

EQ and Engineering Managers

Engineering managers can benefit from practicing, attaining, and honing the attributes of emotional intelligence. Engineers work in complex technical environments and engage with professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds. In the field of engineering, as in all industries, emotional intelligence aids in the building of strong, valuable relationships that can last throughout your career. Being aware of what constitutes EQ can give motivated engineering managers an upper hand in rising to positions of leadership.

Learn More

An advanced degree program for engineers who want to become leaders without losing their foundation in engineering, the online Master of Engineering Management from Ohio University focuses on leadership and management skills and their direct relationship to engineering process improvement, project management, effective communication, and innovative solutions.

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